Carrying one of these in your bouyancy aid?
Then read on…
Lots of paddlers carry open slings with a karabiner attached to tow boats in a rescue situation. They’re fast and easy to use and those with an outdoor background probably have a few old climbing slings kicking around anway…
I’ve had two bad experiences with this set up. The first of these involved me towing a kayak that had parted company with its paddler, on a relatively slow moving stretch of river. I clipped the boat with the karabiner, then, like a fool, I put my head and arm through the sling. The boat that I was towing went one side of a tree and I ended up on the other. As both boats kept moving with the current, the sling tightened around my neck, almost dragging me in to the water. Luckily, I wriggled free, but I came pretty close to having to cut the sling off.
Lesson learnt: Don’t put your head through the sling when towing and always carry a knife in your bouyancy aid. Sorted? Well, not really…
About a month a go, on the River Tryweryn in North Wales, I spotted a boat coming downstream, with no paddler. I paddled out to it and again, clipped the sling on to the grab handle, this time, only putting the sling over my arm. Now, boats full of water are seriously heavy, even with air bags fitted. When the boat being towed got caught on rock, it would jerk my arm back hard – not good. In the end, I ditched the sling above the “ski-slope” section, as i didn’t fancy going down that with a heavy boat attached to my arm.
So what’s the lesson?
- If possible, try to nudge a boat in to an eddy using your boat, rather than towing it.
- If you do end up towing, find a way of doing so that doesn’t attach you to the other boat.
And here’s the solution:
Climbing tape – less than £2 a metre, widely available and serves a number of uses. A 4m length can be used in conjunction with a snapgate karabiner for towing, lowering boats down steep banks, on it’s own in lieu of a rope in a “pig rig” pulley system, or tied (with a water knot) to create a 2m sling to use around an anchor in a pulley system. It is more awkward to use for towing than an open sling, as you have to hold the tape against the paddle shaft with one hand, but it is easier to ditch if a problem should arise.
It’s worth getting a large kayaking specific karabiner, such as the one shown above left – as it will fit around the chunky grab handles found on some kayaks (as well as a paddle shaft for other rescue setups.)
I hope this provides some food for thought. Even if you do decide to keep your open sling setup, remember to 1) carry a knife and 2) don’t put your head through it to wear it over your shoulder. Either hold on to it, or put it around your forearm if you must.
*Edit April 2013* Since writing this I’ve revised my opinion. The biggest reason to use tape is it’s versatility, rather than the “danger” of using a sling. Tape that is tied to form an open sling can be used to tow boats or to create an anchor. Once untied it can be passed around around an anchor and retied (with a water knot) to form a larger sized sling.