Kukla: Be safe on the water
The unfortunate death of the rafter on the Colorado River recently prompted me to add something to the dangers of falling out of the raft. First is the proper fitting of your PFD life jacket and the warm gear you should be wearing.
I write this, as I made this error on a Grand Canyon trip some years ago. I was tossed out of the boat and had a long swim. The water was cold, around 49 degrees. I had on only shorts and a loose life jacket.
After 25 years of boating and several river-rescue courses, I should have known better. Not nearly enough warm gear on to prevent hypothermia, and my PFD was loose, very loose. As a result, the PFD would not keep my head above water. The PFD was rose above my head. I fought to keep my head above the water, no easy task when the water is freezing and I was being drained of my energy.
I was in the water maybe only five minutes, but it seemed like an eternity when you are trying to survive. Fortunately for me, a young kayaker, Miss Black, paddled out to me and tossed me a line and pulled me over to shore. My only words to her when she arrived were “help.” That’s about all I could muster.
My two cents: Make sure your PFD is right, and that the others in your group have the correct PFDs, and that they are very snug. By correct, it must be a Type 3-5 and in great shape, no rips or tears.
I live on the Fork. It kills me to see people out there with the wrong PFD or none, not to mention those single chamber Walmart things they call rafts.
Now to aid in preventing hypothermia, put on a paddle jacket and pants and shoes, it might be 80 degrees out, but the water is still so very cold, and you don’t last long if your out there swimming and a ways from the shore and or boat. Be prepared out there, and knowing some river rescue techniques (having gear) is key out there.
I learned this the hard, cold, and almost deadly way. Be safe out there, and see ya in an eddy.