Jun 22, 2008 at 1:16 pm #1229750
This seems to be a learned technique, to put it mildly. :)
After untold failed attempts, I finally landed on a means of re-entering the raft in deep water where there's no means of pushing off the bottom of the creekbed, lake, etc. Would be interesting to hear of others' experiences in these circumstances / other techniques / and what factor might body weight & strength play? (200 lbs here, average)
This technique assumes a port-side re-entry of an upright Alpacka, ie, the "velcro" side of a spray-decked model.
1) Place paddle across the bow and behind any lashed cargo
2) Place left hand on center of paddle shaft, right hand atop near raft tube by seat
4) Orient your legs in the water at a ~45 degree angle away from the boat, and kick kick kick in quick bursts, lifting your torso out of the water and over the boat. Don't apply much hand/arm downward force at this point.
5) Quickly extend left arm & hand out over the far side of raft tube while moving right hand down to the floor of the raft and against the inside tube.
6) The raft will want to flip over toward you as you now apply downward/inward gripping force with hands/arms. Resist this with all of your effort, more kicking, and a lateral, "crawling" body movement across the top of the boat rather than vertical.
7) Flop and flip! Flop your torso, belly-down, atop the raft, and, center of gravity now over the boat, flip forward onto your butt, legs now dangling off the left tube.
8) Pull legs into the boat and take a nice, long, heart-calming break.
I find it amazing how quickly my pulse accelerates during these maneuvers, typically from 70-80bpm up to 150 in just a few seconds. Again, body weight could be a disadvantage in my case. Re-entry in shallower water is infinitely easier, since one can jettison off the bottom in those cases. But simply knowing I now have the capability to get back into the boat in any depth of water is worth all the sore muscles of practice.Jun 23, 2008 at 10:24 am #1439657
I make this sound difficult. Erin McKittrick, in a prior forum contribution, makes it sound easy. Maybe Erin is exceptionally bouyant, or I'm just dense. (Caps added for emphasis.)
"Packrafts are quite stable. Nearly impossible (I've heard rumors someone has done it) to eskimo roll, for the same reason they're hard to flip in the first place. Getting in is really easy, though. We set up a clip system to quickly release the pack from the front (the weight makes the raft harder to flip upright) doable while in the water. THEN I JUST FLIP IT BACK OVER AND CLIMB IN – I'VE ENDED UP BACK IN THE BOAT ALMOST BEFORE I NOTICED I WAS OUT OF IT. No water stays in the boat after flipping, and I can pull the pack back with an attached string."Jun 25, 2008 at 7:56 pm #1440188
Update: This is getting easier with additional practice. At this point, I'd probably revise the above 8-point technique to say mostly this:
Get your feet out away from the boat, hands on deck, kick to propel yourself laterally over the near side tube, throw one arm with paddle in hand over the far tube as soon as possible to counter the raft's desire to tip toward you, then get your torso squarely atop the raft. In other words, tackle your Alpacka, rather than trying to jump right back into the stirrups.
From there, it's just a matter of turning over onto your butt, then merrily jumping back into the practice pool for another go.Jul 5, 2008 at 9:30 pm #1441676
With a little practice, I find it easy to get back into my packraft from deep water. I practiced in a pool and in a reservoir till I felt comfortable. I made sure I did this with the clothing and gear I'd actually use on a trip. One PFD I have is almost impossible to get into the boat with. It's a class V that sits low to completely free your arms to paddle. The result is that it sticks out further that a more full coverage PFD and gets in the way of me pulling my stomach into the boat.
I also found a PFD with higher bouyancy gives you more lift and makes it easier to climb in. Also, make sure you don't stuff too much in your PFD pocket since that can make it harder to climb in.
I had my first unplanned swim a couple weeks ago in Upper Disaster (class III) on the Gates of Lodore section of the Green River. I was back in the boat quickly without much thought – I was too busy being mad that I let go of my paddle. I had practiced flipping, holding on to my paddle and climbing back in. But on this unexpected flip when the packraft stern got sucked into a hole after a drop, I reflexively let go. No one below me saw this paddle and it was never found. I was able to hand paddle over to another boat and luckily my group had an extra paddle since this was day 1 of a 4 day trip.Jul 7, 2008 at 10:36 am #1441847
I also lost a Manta Ray paddle following a flip. In this case, the paddle was tethered to the raft, never mind that I wasn't able to hold onto either that day. Both paddle and raft (traveling downriver conjoined) were subsequently recovered via a lost and found ad. (This was on the well-traveled and occasionally lazy Saco River in NH, mind you.)
Tethering, to me, seems worth the small risk of entanglement, given the raft's tendency to get bandersnatched and flip even in the relatively mild rivers available to me locally. I don't use a wrist leash, though. And I do plan to have a small knife blade available in moving water to cut free in an emergency.Jul 12, 2008 at 6:09 am #1442620
Tethering is not a good idea for me. The local rivers are full of strainers and the raft-paddle would be bound to get snagged. I just did Desolation/Gray canyon on the Green then Gates of Lodore (also on the Green). The water was wide with big wave action. Surprising really that I only dumped once. With the rocks and holes I wouldn't want to worry about anything else (like getting tangled in the leash) if I dumped. I'd much rather buy a new paddle.
I'm finishing work on a packraft safety tips podcast. I took a Whitewater ReEscue course with 11 other packrafters. 7 had been packrafting over 5 years each. I interviewed these "experts" for safety tips and common mistakes. One common mistake listed was "too much junk on the boat" meaning any straps, ropes, etc you could get caught in. These guys did most of their packrafting on wild rivers in the west and Alaska which may be different than where you are floating. Float your own float. I don't ever see myself tethering my paddle though.Jul 12, 2008 at 6:13 am #1442621
One more thing – you mentioned you were a big guy? That may be why the frequent bandersnatching. The newest Alpackas have quite a bit more floatation in the stern which would probably big a big help in reducing the tendency for your raft to flip backwards.Jul 12, 2008 at 10:49 am #1442640
And another thing…
If you aren't, lean forward through rapids and paddle hard (which also keeps you leaning forward). It helps prevent bandersnatching :)Jul 15, 2008 at 11:14 am #1443030
Thanks for the tips, Carol. I wonder when the good folks at Alpacka Raft may have implemented the new design? Mine is one of the original 1.3 sil-nylon decked rafts purchased here at BPL.Jul 29, 2008 at 7:06 am #1444974
I think it was implemented this summer, but am not sure.
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