Interesting Safety & Rescue class at Mason Neck State Park with Heroes on the Water.
I was invited to lead a flat water safety & rescue class with an organization I've never worked with before: Heroes on the Water (HOW). The lead organizer for the George Washington Chapter is Karl Schwartz. HOW helps many veterans via outdoor opportunities concentrating on fishing from kayaks. This class had leaders from a number of chapters in Maryland and Virginia. The classroom location was at Mason Neck State Park South of Washington, DC. Mason Neck is an incredibly beautiful place along the Potomac River near Pohick Bay. The park rangers let us set up our class overlooking the water under some really nice shade trees.
During the morning session, we covered lots of topics like trip planning, rescue timeline, equipment, environmental factors, etc. There were 15 participants and I got to teach with my great friend Sean McCarthy once again. Sean has more experience with leading flat water trips than most of us and is a very engaging speaker. When gathering background experience, we discovered that HOW also paddles whitewater up to Class II. In fact, they were planning a trip on an upper section of the Shenandoah river in the next month. We also had one incredibly mature 9 YO child in the class - Charlie Schwartz. In a number of ways, Charlie assisted in the instruction as well both on land and in the water.
As usual, I have the early birds practice various rope throwing skills. For nearly all, this was the first Safety & Rescue Class any have taken and few flat water boaters have experience with throw ropes. I placed a bath towel roughly 40' away for the simulated target which works very well. Most got the hang of this after several tries but one participant was a real pro.
After the land course, we sat down for a geat picnic lunch and packed away all of my equipment/clothing props. It's hard to believe it all fits in a puny Subaru Forester (but just barely). We then got dressed for the water based part of the class.
We had to paddle a ways out on the Potomac to cross the Hydrilla Grass, a very invasive plant to say the least. Once we were in deep enough water, we proceeded to do a number of exercises. I asked everyone to hop off the boats which produced quite a few puzzled looks. Fortunately everyone cooporated and we had a geat deal of fun (it's also cooler in the water as well). We did PFD float examinations, swam with boats, and paddled assisted swimming. Now for the fun part, getting back on/in our boats. We demoed all sorts of boat based rescues. It was neat watching Charlie assist Sean back in his touring kayak. I then demonstrated towing and they had me tow the largest SOT I've ever seen - kind of reminds me of that humerous Facebook Battleship Kayak (only much larger). Fortunately fishing kayaks track very well so he was easy to tow. I then swapped my rescue vest with Charlie and he towed me and my Nomad creek boat around (and creek boats don't track all that well).
Sean demonstrated the use of a paddle float and proper entry into a sea kayak. We also discussed the scoop rescue technique and it's limitations.
After the boat-based rescue skills were completed, we landed on a sandy beach and everyone tried their hands at throw bag tossing at me in the water. We then did a debrief emphasizing the need for First Aid & CPR training and ellicited feedback on the course which was very positive. Later on that night, Sean lead a night time paddling trip which sounded really cool.