04.05.2021

OPEN WATER III #cultureofsafety

Following Luc Mehl's promotion of #cultureofsafety for introducing #thepackrafthandbook we are about to share the products and resources we provide for #packraftsafety over the course of May, with a simple goal: no fatalities in 2021. We are happy to contribute. Human are not made for water after all.

There is a lot of safety talk in the packrafting community, for a good and right reason, but it is mostly connected to whitewater, which is pretty obvious to emphasize.

However, flat water safety needs to be addressed too, especially for venturing into open water, more or less distant from shore, sometimes connected to wind. Flat water is usually referred to non-grade of whitewater like lakes, calm flowing rivers, bays, fjords, regardless of size. 

We like to highlight flat water issues out of four reasons

  1. A substancial part of the known fatalities, including one known to us, are flatwater related.
  2. While the probability is less, consequences are often higher, less foregiving (compared to whitewater).
  3. In contrast, flatwater applications are far more relevant to the majority of users by sheer number, increasing the actual probability.  
  4. Our line of products have a unique selling proposition for being light and fast packrafts, lately even for sailing, so flatwater is as enjoyable as inviting, which makes it attractive for many and even encouraging for open water or bigger crossings. With this distinguishing we have a special responsibility.
So what is the issue? 

For what ever condition (wind, move, current, material) a separation from equipment occurs, with the following reasons, it can become fatal:
  1. Temperature of water 
  2. Time (not necessarily distance) to shore 
  3. Being little prepared (mentally and physically)
In assessing the risk of cold water we stick to the 1-10-1 rule (of thumb). It refers to you having one minute to control your breathing, less than 10 minutes for self-rescue, and 1 hour before you become unconscious due to hypothermia.

So even on mellow trips, try to think how far you can move in 10 minutes, realistically. A calm mountain lake, a fresh spring river trip or an enclosed bay may look different. 

Good news is on each of the three reasons above, there are three means to counterbalance:
  1. Practice reentry - getting in the boat again is quickest way out of cold water
  2. Avoid to go alone - a second (or third) boat is the best backup to have
  3. Have a paddle (multi) leash - in contrast to whitewater, connection is key
  4. Carry a light throw rope - they are more useful than for whiteweater rescue
  5. Wear a flotation vest, consider a drysuit especially if on your own despite 2.
  6. Study wind forecast and currents
  7. Take a (water proof) mobile or SPOT for no coverage areas
  8. Use a light, whistle, bright clothing
  9. Study and practise CPR
Most of the points are no brainer. Our aim is to take them on any (cold) water, for anyone, always - weight, cost and time being no excuse.

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