Tape, not sling.

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.

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2 Responses to Tape, not sling.

  1. Pingback: A Paddler’s Guide to Karabiners | iboutdoor

  2. Interesting… Not to tear you apart but…
    On small rapids witch you may know don’t drop off and you have time to react why not keep it simple for your self and lift the bow of the boat up let most of the water drain out displaced with the stern air bag flip it over then you’ve got possibly one of the easiest situations in to world to deal with as a firm shuv will send it across the width of the tryweryn.
    As for putting it over your shoulder and putting it over your neck all seams well and good on flat water as its a bit easier but what about just holding it in your hand? KISS (keep it simple and safe) then you can simply just let go.
    But some good advice snap gates are far far easier to use in most occasions as they have the simplicity and size of gate for fitting over grab handles when trying to do this when your rescuing a boat. Anything to do with humans though. Screwgates!
    Personally I don’t thing there’s anything wrong with carrying slings, I carry one in my BA and a couple in my boat, as long as they’re long enough (240cm) and you don’t try and hang your self.
    When tying off tape just remember LONG tails, the reason we use overhand knots and water knot (retied overhand with tails finishing at opposite ends) is because these can slip, especially when wet and under a lot of pressure.

    One thing I’ve noticed missed off these is the amount you’ll gain from going on courses or having days coaching with an experienced coach. Yes this can get expensive but your standard FSRT course is no more that around £40 and then you can bring that back to your paddling and test it out when needs be or with friends. Progression from that is WWSR and then SWSR these are a bit more expensive but if your moving up to anything over grade 2 normally it’s well worth it especially id your going down low volume rivers and boulder gardens when a pin or rescue is likely.
    Really good blog, keep them coming

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