Practice self rescue techniques every now and then. It is surprising how many class IV boaters don't know how to self rescue these days. Many also lack aggressive swimming skills as well. They are a danger to themselves and others. When swimming with a boat and paddle, hang on to both in one hand and drag to swim while swimming with the rest of your body. It is important to stay upstream of the boat, the last thing you need is to get caught between a swamped boat and a rock. Set an appropriate ferry angle to make it easier to get to shore. If you are quickly approaching a strainer, push off the boat and swim away from the danger. When close to shore, toss the paddle like a javelin onto shore. You can also push the boat quickly in easier water and swim to catch up. This can be faster than towing. Here is an video that demonstrates the technique: Self Rescue.
Often the fastest way to get a boat to shore is the bulldozer method. Hooking the tip of your boat in the cockpit provides additional control and speeds the recover process. With more than one boater, someone can grab the downstream end with their hand and quickly push. This gets the boat into shore even faster. Setting a ferry angle helps to balance the forces and get the boat across faster. Often the fastest way to get a boat across a stream or into a safe eddy is towing with a rescue vest and tow tether. Make certain you know how to use the quick release feature. The tow tether is the most reliable way to run a rapid with a swamped boat as well. This can be necessary to avoid having the boat get pinned. Here is a video that cover this subject: Capsized Boat Techniques II.
In general, I wouldn't tow a boat full of water without some type of quick release approach. If you are not using a quick release tether and towing a boat with a painter, hold with your hand on the paddle. If things get too rough, you can easily let go of the rope. Some use a large loop made with webbing and sling over just one shoulder. That also works well and is easy to jettison.
Canoe paddles are a breeze, kayak paddles are very awkward. If you lack a tow tether, stack both paddles together and paddle. This technique is slow but does work. When you get close enough to shore, toss like a javelin. I find it much easier to hook the paddle shaft with my tow tether and drag the paddle across. Canoe paddles can be stuffed in the top of your PFD. If you have a raft or canoe, you can carry inside the boat or tie to the craft. Don't dilly-dally on paddle rescues. Paddles are often dark in color and blend in well with water. They can be very difficult to find when lost. When rescuing as a team, put the strongest boaters with the swimmer, then the boat. You can usually assign a single paddler to deal with the paddle.
Tool to sprint for help
Often the fastest way downstream is your boat. When sending someone for help, take a few minutes to prepare a message with all of the vital information like name, contact information, location and directions, time of the accident, what you need (this is really important), patient condition and vitals, etc. Practice the sales pitch a few times so you can deliver it with confidence. Send two boaters instead of one so they can help each other if necessary. If they need to drive, don't forget the car keys. The Wilderness First Aid class trains first aid responders the Patient Assessment System (PAS) and the use of a SOAP Form. I highly recommend printing and packing these in your first aid kit.
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