Sit. Rep. #51: Sign Posts in the Water

1- As we prepare for the canoe trips we must learn to read the river signs.  So – first – new words:

   Eddy: The swirling of water (horizontal to stream surface) just downstream of an obstacle that causes the current to flow backward (upstream) to fill the void behind the obstacle.  You can get caught in it – a bad thing.  Or use it as a place to rest – a good thing.  There may be ripples just upstream from the obstacle.

   Whirlpool:  A rotating body of water caused by opposing currents ( such as between an outflowing river and an incoming ocean tide ).  Or by current running into an obstacle.   Large ones are called maelstroms ( even more very bad things for canoes ).  And an even worse one is called a vortex.  These three most likely have a downdraft in the middle that can (and will) suck you down under ( more bad things ).  Sometimes you will hear these called “washing machines”.

   Ripples: Usually small undulations on the water surface.  But they indicate something below the surface.  They can be just down or upstream from the obstacle.  Watch carefully.

   Waves: Either bigger ripples from something underneath the surface of the water or caused by wind.  Watch & read the water carefully.

   Waves have Crests & Troughs:  Crest is the top of the wave & the Trough is the bottom.  Note: the average between the two is the “real” water level.

   Standing wave/s:  These are usually found around rapids.  They are called standing because they do not move across the water.  They seem to be permanently “standing” in place.  Very tall ones can swamp your canoe by pulling the canoe down and dragging you under.

  Whitecaps:  When the top of the wave breaks into a foaming top.  Whitecaps are caused either by high wind or by a large drop in the river bed.  Read the waves & rocks carefully.

   River Snag:  Is a tree (living or dead), or rocks that are in the water with branches that can SNAG you and keep you pinned where you are.  Sometimes snags are completely submerged and all you can see are the ripples of the water going over the snag.  (very dangerous in moving water)  If your feet become snagged – the moving water can push you down.  If that happens – roll your whole body to get your toes pointed away from the snag.

   Bend:  A river bend has some interesting features.  The outside of the bend has the fastest water.  The inside of the bend is usually shallower because of the slower moving water.  Snags are usually more present on the outside of the bend.  

2- If you get a chance, watch the water flow down a gutter or ditch.  Imagine yourself being 100 times smaller.  Now watch and read the water for the micro-sized you.

C- What does a cloud wear?
D- Thunderwear.

3- Practice using a “throw bag” and practice throwing a “throw ring” in the yard.  These are especially handy if something goes wrong such as man-over-board.
     During your practice, retrieve the bag or ring quickly like you missed the target & re-throw as fast as possible.  Now try hitting a moving target.

4-  I like using a “cable-tow” line on the stern of the canoe.  That way someone in the water can tag along until smoother water before trying to get back into the boat.  Set up your cable tow with several simple knots (figure 8 works very well) to let the person in the water grab a hold of the line easier.  A tied loop at the very end is also a good thing for the person in the water.

5- If you abandon ship at some point:  REMEMBER to float downstream feet first.  Your feet can take a hit on a rock better than your head.  They can also keep you from crashing into the rock – think shock absorbers.  This also keeps your feet from becoming snagged on snags.

E- What do you call dangerous precipitation?
F- A rain of terror.

6- Why would you watch the weather in the mountains?  Because water flows downstream.  Always watch the weather!  Here & There!  Rivers have flooded even when there was not a cloud in the sky.

7- No Cotton clothes on the river!  Broad-brimmed hat or brain bucket (helmet) with a chin strap.  Sun Screen.  Knee pads optional. 

8- If you expect the water to be cold (from the weather, or the mountains, or water released from the bottom of the dam) wear wool socks with your water shoes.

Stay afloat,

Youth Skits for Girls by Thomas Mercaldo

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