Last weekend (25th/26th) myself, Ben, Ian, Lewis and Jack travelled up to North Wales to the River Dee to do our British Canoeing Whitewater Safety and Rescue Training course. We all drove up on the Friday night to the Bungalow in Bala, arriving at around 10PM. After getting settled in and running down to Bala to get a quick Chinese, we all went to bed to get some sleep for the busy day we had ahead.
The next morning we were up and at the Tryweryn at 8:45 where we met our instructor Chris Evans and another guy who would be doing the course with us. We went to one of the classrooms and introduced each other then Chris introduced himself and told us how the weekend would run. We then went outside to the containers and grabbed extra equipment we needed to borrow such as extra throw lines, slings, karabiners and Brand new Typhoon MS4 drysuits for Lewis. We then loaded up and headed off to the Dee as the Tryweryn wasn’t running.
After the 30 minute drive, we arrived at the “Nomad” site which is located in-between Serpents Tail and Town Falls, Just outside Llangollen. We kitting up and spent around an hour in the car park practising vocal commands, reach and throw rescues, using the principles of SHOUT, REACH, THROW, ROW, GO. After this, we hastily headed down the freezing water where we all took a dip and practised our Defensive swim position followed by a short swim down the slow section. We then got then practised out shout rescues, then our reach rescues using a sling or a paddle then our throw rescues. After this the best part of the day had started……..LUNCH!
After a 45 minute lunch break, we headed back to the water where we got in our kayaks and ferry glided across to the other side of the river where all the fast moving whitewater was. This is when all the hardcore rescues started to happen. We spent most of the day over on the other side of the river practising lots of Packed and coiled throw line rescues and techniques on how to make a throw rescue more effective and efficient such as moving with the swimmer instead of staying still and using a vector to ease the strain off the rescuer. Live bait rescues followed this, but a strong emphasis was created about how unsafe this is and how live bait should only be used as a last resort. Bren Orton also paddles past us and gave us a smile and wave as we were getting stuck into our throw bag practise.
After this, we went upstream about 100 meters were there was a nice hole stretching across. We all swam through the whole and into the eddy beside it where we re gathered. After more talks with Chris about how certain rescue scenarios we hopped back into our boats and had a quick play on the hole before calling at a day.
We all drove back to the bunk house where we hung all our kit up to dry in the drying room. We all then got showered and headed down to Bala where we got a mixture of Indian, Chinese and Italian food for dinner. We headed back to the bunkhouse, ate dinner and socialised until 11PM when we decided to call it a night.
The next morning we got up early again and headed to the Tryweryn to meet Chris then headed to the same spot on the Dee to commence with our last day of training. The morning consisted of mechanical advantage practise on dry land using slings, ropes and karabiners to set up a bully system/rope system to de-pin a kayak from a rock. We also practised this using a Canoe and also how to rescue a pinned kayaker/canoeist from their craft and get them safely to shore. After this we got into out kayaks and paddled/walked upstream where we then practised wading into moving water in a group of 6. After trying different types of wading strategies, we got into out kayaks and practiced boat based rescues, rescuing swimmer and boat with paddles.
We then headed back downstream few signals to kayak down safely as a team through the rapids. We then stopped for lunch. After lunch we got straight into the river to do a scenario. Ben was a swimmer on the other side of the river and we had to get his boat and paddle to him. So we sent a line over which we attached to trees at both ends. We then strapped his paddles into his boat and clipped it onto the line that we sent over. Due to the angle go the line and the moving water, the boat travelled across the river to ben where he got into his kayak and paddled back over to us.
The day ended with myself, Ian and another man on the course going for a quick paddle with Chris through the rapids messing around with booking, ear dipping and surfing in a few wholes.
We got out, got changed and went into the cafe were Chris gave us our de-brief. We left site at around 4:45 and got home at roughly 8:30.
Overall, the course was very successful and we all learnt a lot of things that we hadn’t previously spoke about. It is much easier putting into perspective the effectiveness and dangerousness of certain rescues by actually trying them. Before the, I thought live bait rescues were quite safe and the most effective. However, after hearing stories from Chris and actually doing the rescue, I can firmly say that it is only something I would do as a last resort.
Thank you very much to Braintree Canoe Club for organising the course for us on behalf of myself, Jack Poole, Lewis French, Ben Slack and Ian Fisher. We will now be using all this knowledge and information on future club trips wether it is on the Chelmer or in Slovenia!