Friday, May 27, 2011

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

This important and educational article was written by Mario Vittone and should be shared globally.

The Incident - The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this captain know? – from fifty feet away – what the father couldn’t recognize from just ten? Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew knows what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story. Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning prepares us to look for, is rarely seen in real life.

The Instinctive Drowning Response (IDR) – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC). Drowning does not look like drowning – Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene Magazine, described the instinctive drowning response like this:

"Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.

Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly before their mouths start to sink below the surface again.

Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Doing this permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.

Throughout the IDR, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

From beginning to end of the IDR people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs".

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble – they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the instinctive drowning response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long – but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Other signs of drowning on the water:
  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs – Vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Ladder climb, rarely out of the water.
So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK – don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all – they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents – children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

6th UK Storm Gathering Symposium - News

The 6th UK Storm Gathering Sea Kayak Symposium will be held on the Isle of Anglesey over the weekend beginning Saturday 22nd and running through to Monday 24th October 2011. The aim of this symposium is to bring together intermediate and advanced kayakers with similar passions and provide a practical programme with an emphasis on challenging conditions, commitment and open crossings.

The registration fee for attending includes access to all workshops, evening lectures, social events, raffle ticket, delegate pack and a symposium souvenir. 

Register by August 1st 2011 and enjoy the early bird rate of £100.

Register after August 2nd at the full rate of £150 & receive a bonus gift.

There will be a daily rate during the event subject to available places.

The symposium will be based at Anglesey Outdoors and workshops/ journeys will launch from the surrounding bays and harbours. The venue offers us a great deal of flexibility and a number of workable options dependent on the weather.

Participants will need to arrange their own accommodation. An information sheet listing options, above and beyond that which Anglesey Outdoors has on offer, will be available on request.

On the water clinics are likely to be based around the following themes - Performance Rolling - Seamanship & Navigation - What if...? (Incident Management) - Rescues - Moving Water - Tidal Races and Overfalls - Crash and Bash (Kayak Repair) - Forward Paddling - and led by guest coaches from within the UK and further afield.

Day trips, land based workshops and lecturettes will be scheduled as appropriate, and based on participant demand.

BCU Paddlesports Performance Awards, trips and further coaching opportunities are planned to run from 25th - 28th October. BCU courses and trips will run when workable numbers are reached. Costs will be published in a separate post.

The intention is to attract a number of well known brands from the sea kayaking world to exhibit at this event including Kokatat Watersports Wear and Tiderace Sea Kayaks, as well as show support for local retailers such as Summit to Sea.

A booking form is now available on request.

Please e-mail Mark should you wish to discuss matters relating to the 6th UK Storm Gathering Sea Kayak Symposium

Friday, May 20, 2011

Incident Report

Humber Coastguard requested the launch of both Bridlington RNLI lifeboats on Saturday 14 May, after receiving a call that two kayak-type boats were in trouble off the coast at Barmston. 

The inshore lifeboat (ILB) Windsor Spirit made its way quickly to the area with Helmsman Grant Walkington and Crew Members Pete Jones and Jason Stephenson aboard. 

On arrival in the area a 10-year-old boy could be seen in the water trying to hold on to his father's kayak. The boy's father was trying to paddle back to the beach but was not making any head way in the gusting offshore winds. 

After lifting the young boy from the sea the ILB crew quickly wrapped him up. The boy's father - who was still not making any head way - also asked to be taken ashore. The ILB beached with father, son and one kayak. The young boy was given more covering against the cold until further help arrived. 

Helmsman Walkington said: 'They were both well equipped with wet suits, helmets and lifejackets but the wind caught them out. The lad just could not get back in his boat and his dad was unable to help him.' 

Meanwhile, the RNLI volunteers on the all-weather lifeboat Marine Engineer searched for the second kayak, which was found a great distance away due to strong winds.

Support the RNLI by becoming a member or making a donation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BCU 5* Award - Training

Last weekend saw me travel to Pembrokeshire to work alongside Nigel Robinson of Sea Kayak Guides in St David's on a 5* Sea Training course. I have known Nigel for some time as a BCU trainer and assessor as well as fellow symposium coach but this was the first time for us as colleagues on the water. As this course was forming part of my 5* Assessor pathway, I took the opportunity to observe Nigel closely with Jim, Kelly, Chris and Stuart who made up the candidate team.

We began on Saturday morning with a session discussing the 'whys and wherefores' of the 5* sea, before Nigel set the team a planning task for the day. We chose to launch from Porthclais with the intention of not returning until well after night fall. And while the intention was not to camp out, the team was expected to paddle with boats packed for such an eventuality. Once on the water, each of the students took turns to lead the group towards Ramsey Sound, followed by an analysis of their approach to the role and their decision making processes.

Having travelled into the Sound, we crossed over to Ramsey Island itself and took time to watch each paddler perform in the tiderace known as the Twll that forms between Ynys Cantwr  and the southern end of Ramsey. After which the group journeyed up the outside of the island, facing a number of scenarios on the way including emergency landings as well as exploring leadership principles such as  positioning and shaping a course. The day continued after a break at the harbour near Pont y Geist with the candidates then venturing into the Bitches, a notorious and popular tidal playspot. Here we explored eddyline crossings, use of contact tows, surfing and upstream progressions.

One more stop at Porthlysgi Bay had Jim, Kelly, Chris and Stuart  as well as myself and Nigel settle down for a hearty feed, swapping expedition top tips and tales of adventure on the high sea over a driftwood fire as we waited for dark. The night element of the training is used to emphasise the strategies a leader needs to employ to get a group back safely when a late return is going to occur due to delays in the day.  These include such things as numbering group members; use of glow sticks; tight group management; and navigation techniques such as aiming off, handrailing and using catchment features as well as stressing the need for accuracy in timing and judging distance to travel.

Sunday was a prompt start that had us reviewing the past 24 hours and planning once again for the day ahead. This time we set off from Porthgain with the intention of landing at Abereiddy. Though the day was moderately shorter, plenty of time was spent looking at rough water boat handling as well as personal rolling and group rescues in the nearby tideraces. As the day progressed a number of incidents occurred for each leader to deal, all requiring sensible solutions and good situational management. After lunch at Traeth Llyfn, we explored surf launches and landings, contact tows in the surf and anchored surf landings. The key tip from Nigel being double the length of your towline. The team then made its way to Abereiddy, with some simple rock hopping thrown in for good measure, and on to Nigel's for tea, tiffin and de-briefs.

An expression that got used over the course of the training was 'Talk Loud, Talk Tough'. This was used as means of emphasising the times when a leader needs to demonstrate command over a situation by being clear and direct in their instructions when the wind is howling and waves are crashing while a capsized paddler is getting cold and soaked. Once an incident has been resolved and the whole group is back on track then the time for 'Talk Softly, Talk Kindly' may be more appropriate.

There was some discussion over the weekend that there is no such thing as an advanced skill and instead there are only the fundamentals which are performed well in a more advanced situation. Another point raised was that when looking at advanced skills we should perhaps more concerned with a paddler's state of mind. That is, how they handle themselves as much as their boat in challenging conditions. So when it comes to assessing an 'advanced leader' perhaps it is their whole demeanour, both on and off the water, that needs looking at as carefully as well as their ability to do 360° turns on a wave train.

Another topic that came up was that of respect. A good 5* leader ought to show respect to, and also take responsibility for, the participants they are paddling with as well as the environment in which they operate. In addition, it was agreed that a leader should engender respect for any equipment being used as the trainees considered the 'What If's...?' facing a group of paddlers that suffers a major equipment failure, maybe on the remote side of an island, due to an individual's mistreatment of their boat and gear.

It was interesting to see how Nigel allowed matters to evolve over the duration of the course, rather than running to a set timetable. Raising issues and asking questions as opposed to being directive and enforcing hard rules or mandates. It was refreshing to be with a fellow coach who avoids gimmicks and set pieces to make a point as to how a leader should be. Instead, Nigel was very adept at introducing topics and letting discussion grow, drawing out an individual's understanding and filling in knowledge gaps both discretely and through peer contribution.

Get in touch if you are interested in completing a BCU training course or just wish to look at your skills development in a boat.

More pictures of this course available here

Friday, May 13, 2011

Incident Report

A canoeist has died after being pulled from the sea off the coast of Eigg. 

A passing vessel alerted the coastguard at about 1700 BST on Sunday after a person was spotted in the water. The crew pulled the man, who has not been named, on board and was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The Mallaig lifeboat and coastguard helicopter based at Stornoway were involved in the operation. The man's body was taken to Mallaig harbour then by ambulance to hospital in Fort William. 

A spokeswoman for Northern Constabulary said there did not appear to be any suspicious circumstances. A report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Support the RNLI by becoming a member or making a donation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

BCU Assessment Weekend

Whilst I've been active over the winter months with various personal paddling adventures, running bespoke coaching sessions for a number of established clients and providing BCU Level 5 mentoring time for Phil Clegg, who I am proud to say was successful in gaining the award a few weeks ago, things have somewhat quiet on the assessment front so far in 2011 after what was a busy autumn delivering a several BCU 4* and Level 3 Coach courses. However, momentum has picked up once more starting with a trip out to Denmark last weekend and with several more assessments set in the calendar for the remainder of the year.

So at the request of Nick Cunliffe of Kayak Essentials with whom I have work alongside on several BCU courses in the past, and organised by Michael Schuh of Kayak Gaarden, I travelled out to Rømø in the central Jutland region to staff a BCU 4* Sea assessment. As a consequence, I had the pleasure of being out in a new paddling area in the company of Michael, Rene, Michael, Jens-Pavia, Morten and Ingolf along with Nick as course provider.

Day one had us launching from the beach at Sønderby, which involved what has to be the longest carry to the shoreline I have had to do for some time! Once on the water, the team were put through their paces taking on several leadership and navigation legs followed by a number of incident management scenarios. An novel element to the day was the 3 km crossing between Rømø and the island of Syllt, which lies in German jurisdiction. The waters between the two islands offered up some interesting tidal flow for us to play around in as well.

Havenby harbour was the setting for the second day of the assessment and the weather provided us with  suitable wind conditions to further test the paddling performance of candidates. It was clear that each  one of the team was competent and capable, regardless of whether they used a Greenland 'stick' or Euro 'blade'. Nick and I decided to conclude the course with a group incident to deal with, which they completed well with a coordinated effort and good humour. 

Its always a good moment at the end of an assessment to announce to everyone that they have been successful bar none. Then, after big handshakes all round and individual feedback dispensed, Michael kindly took Nick and myself back to Billund airport, a journey filled with stories, sight seeing and plan making. I would like to thank Michael also for ensuring I got to paddle an Tiderace Xcite for the two days as well as use of his Mitchell Atlantis paddles and Greenland stick.

Get in touch if you are interested in completing a BCU assessment course or just wish to look at your skills development in a boat.

More pictures of this course available here

Friday, May 06, 2011

Incident Report

A man and a woman are recovering this evening after they were found with their sailing dinghy on Loch Bracadale. 

Stornoway Coastguard were contacted by Falmouth Coastguard at 9.20 pm this evening to report that a personal locator beacon (PLB) was transmitting from a position in the Isle of Skye area. Stornoway Coastguard made some enquiries and discovered that the PLB belonged to a 49-year old local man. They spoke to his father who told them that his son was an experienced kayaker. A short while later the husband of a woman made a 999 call to the Coastguard reporting that his wife, who had gone out dinghy sailing with a friend in the same area had not returned and he was concerned for her safety. 

Whilst the Coastguard pieced all of this information together, they also scrambled the Stornoway Coastguard helicopter and requested the launch of the Mallaig RNLI lifeboat. They also discussed the incident with the Dunvegan Coastguard Rescue Team, who reported that one of their members had seen the dinghy in question earlier in the evening. The team were therefore sent to spot the vessel from the shore. A police officer from Portree Police also attended the scene. 

Due to the locator beacon, the helicopter and lifeboat were able to find the pair with ease. They had been sailing a wayfarer sailing dinghy which had capsized and had problems with its sails. When the helicopter arrived they were attempting to row the dinghy to shore. The helicopter airlifted the pair to Broadford Hospital landing site. They were then taken on to hospital where they were treated for mild hypothermia. 

Carol Collins, Stornoway Coastguard Watch Manager says..."It is unusual for us to receive personal locator beacon hits, but in this case, this was the ideal piece of communications equipment for these people to be carrying. It meant that we were able to locate them swiftly and ensure that we got the right help to them quickly".

Support the RNLI by becoming a member or making a donation.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Anglesey Symposium 2011

Spring has sprung and with it comes the annual event of the Anglesey Sea Kayak Symposium, organised by Nigel Dennis and based out of Anglesey Outdoors near Holyhead. This year saw the gathering endure unrelenting Easterly winds which made for interesting paddling conditions and the need for flexible venue choices. Nonetheless, despite the weather, everyone was in high spirits and keen to experience all that Anglesey and the numerous guest coaches had to offer. Some participants even speculated over whether we might stumble across William and Kate walking on a beach after their big day.

After the morning meeting on Saturday, I was teamed up with Jen Kleck, Phil Hadley and Sonja Ewen to run a day long 'moving water' workshop. With the conditions as they were, the decision was made to head over to the Menai Straits and take advantage of the tidal flow there. Once at the Porth Daniel slipway we split into small teams so that we could each make best use of the Straits and enhance the experience for those paddlers who had signed up. And so it was that Rosie, Andreas, Tony, Jens and Anna got to work on wind wave turns, break ins, break outs, ferry glides and even some trick manoeuvres before I allowed them to break for lunch. After which, the team was encouraged to practice an number of 'get wet' routines before finishing with some surfing.

In contrast, on Sunday I joined up with my good friend Aled Williams of Tiderace Sea Kayaks notoriety, along with Nico Middlekoop, to run another day long clinic this time going by the title of "Intermediate Tideraces and Overfalls". Aled's unique style of 'on the water' group management came into play as the three of us lead / guided / cajoled nineteen paddlers around the Stacks and onto Porth Dafarch, having launched from Soldiers Point. In essence, we each managed a handful of paddlers which gave time for small pods to play in the races but when journeying between locations it may have looked like a ungainly flotilla of sea kayaks at times. 

As with all such events, the enjoyment not only comes from being on the water but also the time spent socialising with fellow paddlers from all over the globe. Most notably this year with folk from Spain, Germany and Denmark. Saturday night had Eila Wilkinson, possibly the most effervescent sea kayaker I know, present to a full house about her exploits with Sonja Ewen when they set off to circumnavigate Ireland last year. And such things need to be followed by a sound evening in the newly refurbished Paddler's Return with the like of Jim Krawiecki, that great pompitous of wit, for company over a beer.

Monday was an entirely different proposition for me. Whilst some folk were going on trips and others were experiencing Greenland games with Marc Alcober from Cataluna down at Porth Dafarch, I got to work with Greg, Rene, Mattias, Eila and Tom who have all started upon the pathway that will lead them to becoming BCU 4* Sea Assessors. The first part of their apprenticeship involves attending a BCU Generic Assessor Training day that is concerned with exploring issues that arise within the syllabus and assessment processes. After which they can go on to completing a discipline specific training day. With the breadth of experience in the room and worldy insights from active coaches operating in Connecticut, Switzerland, Sweden and Tyneside as well as Anglesey, the discussions were healthy, activities lively and no-one appeared to mind being indoors for most of it.

With this event now over I begin to turn my attention to future symposiums that I will be contributing to this year - Paddle Orkney '11, as well as organising - 6th UK Storm Gathering Symposium. In the meantime, I would like to thank Kokatat, Tiderace and Mitchell Blades for whom I am an ambassador for and am appreciative of their support of me with the equipment they provide that enables me to do a good job on the water as a leader and coach.

More pictures of the Anglesey Symposium 2011 can be found here