Safety Lesson Learned

Jan – Jericho

Hello paddlers:

Well, it seems that Jericho made the news Apr. 23 – on many radio stations, including CBC. In case you haven’t heard, we had a bit of a mishap the previous night – Apr. 22.

12 of the Jericho women went out for a paddle that night. The wind was up (30+ knots) and the water was big (6 foot and bigger waves). We debated for awhile if we should even go out. The boats didn’t have spray skirt as they had been removed for repairs. We finally decided to go out, head to Kits and stick close to shore.

With the wind and waves behind, paddling down to Kits was a blast, big surf and all. Then we had to turn around. At first, it was just a slog. The boats were near each other and we got hit by a big wave. 2 people were bailing in each boat. We got hit by another big wave. The boats were swamped.

We did our safety checks. PDF’s went on, heads counted and as much as possible, paddles collected. We did lose a couple of paddles.

We then did everything we could to try and turn the boats so that we could huli them or point ourselves downwind to start again, but the water was too big. Bailing was futile as more water poured in for every bucket out. Both boats had the same problem. We were slowly moving them towards the Vancouver Yacht Club as that was our closest point of land. We had a couple people paddling and a couple swimming and pushing boats.

After about 15 minutes of this, the docks guys from the Yacht club came out in their rescue boat. It wasn’t easy for them to get near the canoes as we were getting bounced about so much. But, they got 6 of us out of the water, and back to their Yacht club. By the time we got on the dock, the Coast Guard had come up from Burrard and got the other 6 paddlers. Paddlers had been in the water 20-30 minutes.

We were all huddled in the Yacht Club shower room, soaked to the skin and the paramedics came to check us out. We were all fine, in a shivering sort of way. We were provided with heat packs and lots of blankets, and checked out to see that no one had hypothermia. We were lucky to have been in that water for as long as we were and come out with nothing but crazy shakes. It was quite the production to get a few people warmed up, then back to Jericho to pick up bags of cloths and gear, and then to get everyone dry and on their way home. The dock guys from the Yacht club pushed the boats in and tied them up there.

Anyway – obviously we should have handled things differently. We could have stayed off the water, but of course from shore, it didn’t look that bad. We should have headed west first, to test how bad the water was. But, as we had stayed near shore, we were spotted quickly when it was obvious we were in trouble. Unfortunately, the boats did suffer some damage and that hurts our club.

The paddlers were all great – no one panicked and everyone did what they could. We were all in good spirits, if not feeling incredibly silly. Imagine having the docks guys, the Coast Guard and the ambulance service coming out after you….. All these people were great. They took care of us and no one called us a bunch of twits for being out there.

A few thoughts for outrigger safety that clubs may want to consider. ALWAYS have enough pdf’s on board. A safety kit may be in order. A dry bag stowed on the boat could include a flares, a throw rope, lights, flags and a marine radio.

Thanks to everyone for remaining calm. Thanks to the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, the Coast Guard and the paramedics.

We’ll be back on the water, lessons learned and safety in mind.

Jericho Women