incident off Lasqueti Island

Discussion in 'Paddling Safety' started by kayakwriter, Apr 26, 2019.

  1. kayakwriter

    kayakwriter Paddler

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  2. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    Yeah, not much detail to go on here. Were they due back home that night, or did they simply fail to call in via cell phone to say everything was okay? This is where a back up method of communication like a satellite messenger can really be helpful. The paddlers were most likely in camp long before 10 pm, so all they had to do was send a pre-set message saying, "I'm camped here for the night. All is well." However, if they did have a satellite messenger and it had died perhaps the folks back home panicked and called the CG.

    When I leave on a trip, I tell my friends and family that if I quit posting satellite messages it most likely means the device died. It does NOT mean that I am in trouble! If I'm in some sort of emergency situation, I will first contact emergency responders, not family members!
     
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  3. designer

    designer Paddler

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    jamonte, I run into the same trouble. I have to remind people that no "check-in" message does NOT mean there is trouble. It just means I'm old and I forgot. Usually it's because instead of sending a "check-in" when I land, I wait until I know were I'm going to camp and have all that setup, or I plan to do it after dinner. There are so many other "now" details to be concerned about, I might forget to send the message. Of course if they didn't get some kind of "check in" for several days, that's a little different. But it could happen if spare batteries or charger was forgotten or the device itself went kaput.

    So there is a platform for someone who might say that all this "communication" takes the adventure out of the trip and provides more opportunity for misunderstanding. What happened to the days when no one worried (or admitted they worried) until several days had passed after the designated "I'm back" time. :)

    I'm guessing further comment would go under the current thread in Gear about communications options
     
  4. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    To me, communication often relies on gear, but it isn't limited to gear. Before the days of affordable waterproof handheld VHFs,and PLBs, and cell phones, and sat devices, all we had for communication was a float plan. "If I'm not back by XXX, call the Coast Guard." That was it.

    All of these electronic devices make communication so much easier, but you still have to hammer out an understanding about when others SHOULD or SHOULD NOT declare you missing. In the story Dave told (InReach thread), he did exactly the right thing, regardless of the tech involved. The "overdue" paddler had committed to a specific plan for communication and then forgot to honor it. Even if she was carrying every single piece of electronic communication gear available today, this could have still happened. The planning and forethought required to create a good communication/contingency plan doesn't go away just because we now have all this amazing tech at our disposal.
     
  5. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Thanks, jamonte, for drawing out the emphasis on that Deers incident. My personal bolt hole is a PLB. If the worst occurs, I really want somebody to know I am missing, and where to look.

    I quit leading larger groups a long time ago, but if I were involved today, I would definitely consider one of the enhanced alternatives.
     
  6. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    Dave, there is no question you did the right thing, but I bet it still wasn't easy to make that call to the CG. I have spent some time searching through this website for previous discussions about VHFs, PLBs, satellite messengers, etc. and as far as the pros and cons of each, I don't think anything has changed much in the past 5 years. The sat messengers are great for keeping the folks back home up-to-date, but if I'm in the water in a real emergency I would much rather have a PLB in my hand. There is simply no contest! However, if I'm on the shore with a medical problem, then maybe a sat device would be better. As a solo hiker and river paddler in addition to being a sea kayaker, the InReach makes good sense for me. But if I ever get around to doing a Prince Rupert to Port Townsend trip down the outside, then I'm going to add a PLB to my tool kit.
     
  7. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Often the land, not the sea, is the more hazardous environment.
    I was on a little solo trip and went for a hike along the shore, up and down over logs and boulders, around a headland. Then I thought: "Hey, duh...what if you fall and break your leg here?? Your PLB is in your PFD pocket, and it's in the boat, and the SPOT is in the tent!"
    I'm trying not to repeat that mistake. :)
     
  8. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Yep. All the bad stuff I’ve see happen on paddling trips has been on land: burns, cuts, broken bones, and one coast guard rescue.
     
  9. rider

    rider Paddler

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    Here's what happened, in some detail.
    A group of 4 of us paddled from Smuggler Cove area to Jedediah for the Easter long weekend. Myself and another friend left on Sunday, while the other two decided to stay an extra day. They had one VHF radio, possibly one cellphone, no satellite communications devices. There was no clear communication in regards to "If we are not back by....,call the Coast Guard",but they both had work/school on Tuesday.

    Monday came and we haven't heard back by 8pm. Considering forecast, length of crossing,and their experience level, both me and the friend I paddled back with were concerned. The most likely scenario that ran through my head is they decided the headwind was too much and either didn't launch, or aborted the crossing and landed somewhere on south tip of Texada and camped for the night. The less likely, but drastically worse scenario was that one or both of them could have ended up in the drink somewhere in the main crossing between Texada and Thormanby due to rough conditions and fatigue. I would rate their skill level as intermediate-ish. The forecast as I read it on Monday was a bit dubious, it called for 20-30 knots for Strait of Georgia North of Nanaimo, and 15-20 knots South of Nanaimo, I was a bit unclear what to really expect as Jedediah is a bit North of Nanaimo but not a whole lot, and the difference between forecasts was significant.

    Both of us agreed to call the Coast Guard, shortly after 8pm on Monday I made the call. Chatted with the duty person, gave him the information as I knew it. He dispatched a boat from Squitty Bay on Lasqueti island to check on the spot where we camped. They were not there, though a man from a sailboat in the bay reported seeing them leave between 2-3pm. The Search and Rescue boat checked a few spots in the vicinity, including some spots on South Texada, with no success. Sunshine Coast police also verified that their car was still in the same place. The search was escalated to include multiple boats and a helicopter. Around 11PM i received another call that they still found nothing after checking a few bays and possible spots they could have tucked into.

    Tuesday morning, around 7AM I got a call from the new duty person as shifts changed. He asked a few other basic questions, i verified with the workplace of one of the friends that she's definitely not there and has not been heard from. Search now included a Buffalo airplane in addition to the boats and helicopter.
    10AM . I sat down to make a call to notify my friend's parents. As I pulled out the phone, it rang and it was the duty person at Search and Rescue. Our friends were found, paddling into Welcome Passage, almost back at the put-in, safe and sound. I got a friendly talking-to about resources they put into the search and importance of communication. I agreed and thanked him.

    --Later on, talking to our friends, turned out they made the crossing from Jedediah to Texada,starting at 2:45pm or so, took them a while battling into headwind, they thought better of attempting the main crossing due to heavy seas and wind. They made camp near south tip of Texada. They have heard helicopter and possibly search boat but didn't think much of it. In the morning the conditions were calm and they made the paddle back almost all the way to the put-in before being spotted by the Buffalo, then the helicopter landed two rescue personel who talked to them.

    P.S----My personal conclusions....
    #We really should have discussed contingency plan ("if we don't feel safe to cross, we camp here", "if we're not back by ....,call Coast Guard")
    #We probably should have not split up in the first place, as me and the friend I left with were the more experienced paddlers in the group.
    #They could have used the VHF radio to contact the CG to either relay a message to us that they are OK, or to let CG know in case we call. Once they got suspicious that there is something happening in the area, they could have used Channel 16 to check with CG what's happening, as it's not unreasonable to assume we could have called it in.
    #A Sat Comm device would be handy, and there's often an opportunity to borrow one as multiple people in our friends group have them. I own one but didn't bring it as I assumed we'd return together.

    ...I am very grateful to Search and Rescue for the work they do, but also remains the fact that on Tuesday morning my friends were paddling on open water in calm seas for about 3 hours, right in the search grid before they were spotted. Makes one consider the difficulty of locating 2 small objects on a large body of water.

    In the end of the day, I plan to learn from the situation, I am glad nothing really happened. I feel a bit silly for the massive search effort , but given the circumstances I feel making the call was a reasonable choice.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 29, 2019
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  10. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Great report and analysis, Rider. Significant potential for a much worse outcome. I've been in a similar situation, but with paddlers much weaker than your companions. Thankfully, they elected to leave when we did, and everybody got home safely.
     
  11. mick_allen

    mick_allen Paddler & Moderator

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    Wow, what a report. I wouldn't beat yourself up too much about splitting up as obviously your friends make wise decisions [that's probably why you paddled with them] - other than radio contact . . . but that's really a detail in the whole scheme of things.
    Grateful to Search and Rescue . . . and thanks for being open enough to say what went on.
     
  12. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    rider, thanks for giving us the full story. There is almost always something we (the greater kayaking community) can learn from an incident like this if those involved are willing to share the details. As you said, a communication/contingency plan would have made all the difference in your situation. You did the right thing based on what you knew, but if there had been a solid plan for communication you probably would have felt much more certain about the need to call SAR.

    I've been on lots and lots of trips (hiking, sea kayaking, WW kayaking) where the group intentionally splits up without taking the time to discuss even the most simplistic contingency plan. The can happen so fast and so casually that no one thinks for a second about "what if!" And while having tons of tech with you helps, it won't help at all if someone doesn't turn on their radio or cell phone or sat device to check in! Again, it all boils down to hammering out a communication/contingency plan that everyone understands and commits to.

    This is just my personal opinion/experience, but I also think groups are more likely to split up without a plan when there is no clear trip leader to start with. Just the act of naming someone in the group as trip leader makes everyone think differently about communication if the group decides to split up.
     
  13. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Rider-
    Thanks for the very complete report and thoughtful analysis.
    Don't feel too bad about the search effort. SAR fly around 'for practice' all the time, and no rescuer was in any danger. It would be nice to hear that SAR is analyzing the effort since they had so much trouble locating your friends.
    Aside from the 'failure to communicate' problem, your less-experienced friends made the right call to camp overnight IMO. More than one person has died in the outdoors as a result of the 'gotta get back for work' scenario.
     
  14. designer

    designer Paddler

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    I'm guessing you were outside cell phone service and t'wer it me, I wouldn't have a cell phone anyway. Just a note that there is a Ham Radio network all along the east coast of Vancouver Island. Often local clubs provide informal instruction or a one/two day community college class. There is no cost for the license itself and it's renewable every 10 years. Though normal range of the network is considered "local", it looks like you can use a feature called EchoLink to reach any major city. The folks back home may not have a license to talk to you, but any ham would be happy to relay a message.

    I see mention of the inReach mini. It seems there's a bit of a premium price for that model and it's marketed to backpackers - small size and weight. There are always compromises with "small size and weight" - even if it just more difficult to push buttons. As a kayaker, I'm not so concerned about the difference between playing card size vs half a playing card size. I'll be looking at the two larger "message" models.
     
  15. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Amen. Getting one's buddies to adhere to any structure of this sort is often problematic.
     
  16. nootka

    nootka Paddler

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    -training courses are put on by many local amateur radio clubs, cost varies from free to $100
    -there is an exam for the ham radio license, cost dependent on the examiner
    -license is good for life
    -handheld radios vary in price from $50 to $500. Generally you get what you pay for. You may not want the full extent of bells & whistles available.
    -some handhelds are waterproof, usually IPX7
    -most handhelds also have the weather channels
    -a telescoping antenna extends your range for both transmit & receive
    -radios come without channels programmed in, that is up to you
     
  17. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Some marine VHFs, like the Icom M-88 and M-85 can be programmed with repeater channels, though it isn't easy.

    The problem with HAM radio is that there is no guarantee that anybody will be listening. It's a hobby, not a communication or rescue service.

    (I still have my ham license, but haven't been active for years.)

    To let family know where you are, SPOT or similar (inReach paired with phone) will work better.
     
  18. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    Dave, I think you might have misunderstood my last post. If I'm named trip leader, for example, it means I'll do my best to make sure there is good communication within the group. And if the group decides to split up, then I'm going to want to know how and when I can communicate with the subgroup. If there is no clear leadership before the group splits up, then there probably won't be any afterwards, either. So who is going to make sure that there's some sort of communication/contingency plan? Maybe everyone. Maybe no one. Who knows?

    On my last Grand Canyon trip, I was the only kayaker among five rafts. The rafters were all very experienced and had boated with each other for decades. I was completely new to all, but I'd kayaked the Canyon before and knew what to expect. After a couple days together, I asked the trip leader if I could split off to do solo hikes during the day, which meant that I'd also be boating solo, too. He was fine with it, provided we talked each morning about what our plans were and when/where we'd meet up that night. Some trip leaders would not have allowed me that freedom, and many kayakers would not want to run big rapids solo, but we were each comfortable with this arrangement. My point is that trip leadership is more about ensuring good communication than creating a rigid structure.
     
  19. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

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    To me, the most alarming part of the story is that a forum member went on an overnight kayaking trip but did not post a trip report when he returned. The forum needs more trip reports, people! With pictures!

    Alex
     
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  20. mick_allen

    mick_allen Paddler & Moderator

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    Yes, just where did the last 2 stay on the tip of Texada - and was it ok? I've got some candidates in mind but what are the real coords? And pics, too.