The advice I always give to visitors on Herbie is “If you fall in the canal, stand up.” Nine times out of ten your head will be above water, and on the South Oxford, your knees might be as well. However, some canals are deep enough to submerge a human and lots of rivers are too, so what do you do if someone does go overboard?
They might of course be wearing a lifejacket, but very few of us bother on the canal. We do wear ours on big rivers. Alternatively, some boats carry a life ring. We’ve got an old one, but the only time I tried to use it, it landed some way from the person in the water and anyway it could give you quite a bang on the head if it hit you, so life rings are not ideal. What we carry now is a throwing line, which is a length of buoyant rope stuffed into a little pouch. You hold one end of the rope and throw the pouch which unravels the rope as is travels to the person in the water and then you haul them to safety. If you don’t have one I recommend you to get one. I learned how to use these when I did my RYA Helmsman training as a CRT volunteer, and I think they’re a good thing. Throwing them accurately is surprisingly easy and they cheap and are compact enough to keep to hand when you are steering. Every now and then I have a little practice with ours just to keep my hand in. On one occasion I even used it to measure the width of the canal to see if we could turn!
So far, so good, but last week CRT issued a warning to volunteers after a throwing line broke in half while hauling someone in. On inspecting the rope it was found to be made up from shorter lengths of line joined together by glue or plastic welding of some kind. Other samples from the same (imported) batch were found to be equally faulty. When I get back to Herbie, I’m going to check mine over although I think it’s sound, but I thought letting other people know wouldn’t be bad idea. I can’t afford to lose any blog readers can I?