Sunday, May 01, 2011

"I can't find Alan"
I was hanging with JB who was leading an ICE for folks testing to be ACA instructors when a friend of ours paddled up and told us he couldn't find Alan (another of our friends). Alan had been off the water for a while and had chosen to paddle in an offshore wind that reached 30mph offshore. Two of us took off to the gap when my partner saw what looked to be a hull offshore. We dug in and raced toward the target over a half a mile away. He, being younger and stronger and in a longer boat (he, ironically, was in a Cetus, I in a Romany), gained distance as the target appeared to be blown further away. I began to worry that Alan (who we knew was in a drysuit) may have been in the water for as long as 20 minutes.

I stopped and radioed a "pawn, pawn, pawn" requesting assistance from any vessel in the area. The coast guard came on just as a voice announced on channel 16 that, "Alan is on shore and safe." I saw my partner turn back and fed all this info to the coasties. In the end we all (JB had joined us by then, having made the class safe) had to paddle back into a stiff wind which provided my exercise for the day.

After putting it all together, we realized that Alan had been inside the breakwater watching us storm out to sea to rescue him. We are all still debriefing and learning from the experience.

Paddle safe...
DS

12 comments:

Buncher said...

What was it that you thought you saw?

Silbs said...

There was a boat way out there, just not Alan. Some guy fishing.

Alan said...

Today was my first day out for the season on the lake and I was looking to get my sea legs. I failed to charge my batteries last night so I was without radio, which, I think was a first for me. I didn't want to be a victim for JB's students and I certainly didn't want any drama. The "incident" was the result of poor communication a failure of my partner and I to stay together. I saw him but he lost track of me. It's always nice to know that you're there whether I need rescuing or not.

Diane said...

The second sentence does not add up-was offshore but had paddled alone?

steve said...

sounds like an adrenaline rush, glad it ended safely

avital said...

What els could you do? The information you had was saying "go fast"

Silbs said...

Thank you all for the comments, especially Alan.

The second sentence IS poorly written. I meant to indicate that Alan hadn't padled in some time. It was his first time out since retuning to Milwaukee, and we thought he was outside the breakwall.

Thanks, Avital, there was, in our minds only the thought that one of our own might be in trouble and that time was our enemy as the wind blew them further and further away from shore (it is 85 miles to the other side)
Steve, we discussed it and no one involved had any rush, at least not the adrenaline type. Just a sense of something must be done and done now. That, I am sure, came from being focused on the man we thought was in danger and not ourselves. And...it did end well.

John Browning said...

All's well that ends well. Ok, but let's use this as a learning experience.

a. When paddling with someone, paddle with them, especially in the conditions that were present this weekend. ALWAYS know where the other person is.

b. Know the conditions--the forecast was clear. And, it was clear from the conditions present that NO ONE should be paddling out to the bouy! Period, no room for debate!!!

c. Those binoculars that I had decided not to put in my day hatch (left in the car, after all we were staying inside the breakwall, could have really come in handy in conducting a visual search. They have earned a permanent place in my kit (and everyone wonders why my boat weighs so much ;-)

d. That carabiner I placed on my pfd shoulder strap a few months ago was the ideal place to secure my radio while communicating with the Coast Guard. (I used to keep it in the pocket, on a tether. On the carabiner, it was ready at hand, and could easily be heard.)

e. Having Kris attach a tow to me while paddling into the headwind, kept me heading toward shore, even when I had to stop paddling to transmit on the radio. Until I had him do that I would lose ground very quickly everytime the CG asked me a question--I didn't want to just ignore them.

f. The importance of VHF radios is not to be taken lightly. CG wanted to talk and asked if I had a cell phone with me--it would have been useless as it is much too fumbly to operate in those conditions.

There's more, but this gets us thinking--I hope!

derrick said...

Glad that turned out.. At least you got your exercise.. ;)

Ken said...

To round out the story... This incident occurred while I (as an instructor candidate) was in my assigned role play as the leader of our ICE group, which was inside the break wall and close to shore. A few minutes earlier there had been a capsize and rescue as part of my evaluation, so when this second incident started to unfold, I assumed it was also a role play to see how I would handle the situation. But when JB stepped in as group leader, I asked him to confirm to me whether or not what was happening was part of the role play. He then assured me it was not.

Dress said...

We are all guilty of planning on things going right. Close to shore, experienced group, staying inside, etc. JB didn't have his binoculars, Silbs put his radio in his day hatch, I left my radio in the car.

BAD MOVES... The reason we carry a comprehensive kit is to be ready for when things go wrong - not for what we planned to do.

Lessons learned, all well. 'Til next time.

Dress

Silbs said...

Dress, while I agree with your evaluation, it does require a bit more digging into. Binoculars are not a standard part of most kits. Many folks, in fact, get motion sickness if they use them on the water. As for my radio: I made a conscious move to put it away and informed the group leader I was doing so (in preparation for what I expected to be a rescue scenario with me swimming for a while.
Thanks for making your points.