This page contains some comments and suggestions on the mandated
"safety kits" that all coaching launches must carry.
But why not also consider putting together a similar kit
for bank coaches to take with them? It might just come in
handy one day.
Links to any products or suppliers on this site are just illustrative and (except where stated) aren't recommendations - just ideas for you. Any good chandlers or canoeing shop should be able to source all of this kit. As ever, if anyone has any suggestions for other kit / suppliers, then let me know and I'll see if I can include some more links.
Launch Safety Kits
The Water Safety Code specifies a list of safety aids that
must be carried in all coaching launches and safety boats. The
contents are listed below, together with my comments and suggestions. Did I mention that all of this is unofficial and not endorsed by the ARA or anyone else for that matter? I hope it's useful.
Bailer and (for inflatable launches) spare valve and pump
Sound signalling warning device (at least 200m range)
- whistle (plastic, not metal - so it won't rust)
- many megaphones have a siren feature on them
- mobile phone - but do make sure you've progammed key numbers into it beforehand. 999 or 112 will work even if there's no SIM card in the phone, and emergency calls from mobile phones can be automatically geolocated
A 15m (minimum) grab line, or preferably purpose made "throw bag"
- DO spend the money and get a purpose-made throw bag
- DO practice with it
- DO repack it and store it correctly
- DO have one per coaching launch, and at least one extra in the boathouse
- DON'T use it as a tow-rope
Thermal / exposure blankets
- The metallised "space" blankets are inexpensive, small, light and easy to carry and they reduce radiated heat loss (they don't do very much to dry people, or reduce convective heat loss though). Make sure you have more than one in your Launch Safety Kit; you might have to rescue an eight.
- An improvement on the basic space blanket is the Mediwrap Emergency Blanket, which combines a metallised film with a synthetic fleecy material which both reduces convective heat loss, and absorbs fluids. Perfect for a cold, wet capsize casaulty. There's even a version with a hood.
Life buoys and lifejackets
- Remember that a capsized crews' best buoyancy aid is, at least according to the official view of things, their boat (of course, some boats are more buoyant than others...!), so unless there's a pressing need to get them away from the boat, it's much better to leave them with the boat and just follow them as they row it (ideally) or drape themselves over it and "swim" it to safety. The priority is to get the crew out of the water.
- Do think about how many buoyancy aids / lifejackets / lifebuoys you might need - carrying just one spare isn't much use if you have an eight in the water!
- Don't overload your launch during a rescue.
A basic First Aid Kit
A sharp knife in a carrying sheath
- Primarily to enable you to clear the propellor if you foul it on anything. Make sure you kill the engine before messing about with the propellor!
- I carry a Gerber EZ Out Rescue Knife when I'm in a launch. I don't think you need (or want) a knife with a sharp point for this application!
- A Canadian canoe-style paddle can be a better bet than a cut-down sweep or sculling blade.
- You might consider a telescopic boathook too (if you have the space on the launch).
Handholds on the side of the launch
Engine cut-out lanyard
- The launch should have one, so use it! If you and the launch part company and you're not using the kill cord, then the launch will tend to keep going, not in a straight line, but in a circle around you. Not a good place to be with the threat of imminent liquidisation. Shudder.
Anchor and line
- Make sure the line's attached to the launch before you throw the anchor out, and learn how to use the anchor properly! No, you don't just chuck it over the side and hope for the best.
I would consider adding the following. A mechanical breakdown in the boat isn't per se a safety issue, but if you can fix a problem out on the water before it turns into a safety hazard, then everyone wins.
- Basic tool set
- 10 mm, 13 mm and large adjustable spanners (big enough to fit the bottom nut on the pin)
- flat and cross head screwdrivers
- spare bowball
- spare button / gate
- selection of spare nuts and bolts
- Decent waterproof tape - has 1001 uses for quick, temporary fixes
- Waterproof container for the kit, clearly marked, e.g. a BDH container or Ortlieb bag or similar
Bank Safety Kits
So what if you don't use coaching launches? Suppose all your
coaching is done from the towpath. In this case, I would suggest
that clubs consider providing mini safety kits suitable for a
coach on foot or on a bike. These should be able to fit into a
small rucksack / bumbag,
bicycle pannier or strap onto a bicycle rack. Contents to consider
- Throw bag - consider the width of the river to determine
the right length of line. A 15m throw bag is no good if the capsized
sculler is 20m away.
- Basic first aid kit.
- gloves, face shield, plasters, medium / large dressing.
- Some means of raising the alarm - compressed air horn / whistle
/ mobile phone.
- Basic tool set - 10mm and 13mm spanners, slotted and crossheaded
screwdrivers as a minimum.
- Tape - very useful for "get you home" running repairs.