Safety -- Getting swimmer attention

To make a very sad and long story short, I was turned around during my long swim today because law enforcement and local citizens were searching the lake for the body of a father who drowned last night. He'd gone into the water after his 6 yr old son who'd fallen off a boat w/out a life jacket on, and didn't make it to safety. The child was successfully rescued by another boater.

This is sad and tragic, and really gut wrenching.

I was happily swimming along, my kayaker had been blown behind me and was working to catch up (not all that far behind, but some) from just behind my left shoulder. Another (bigger) boat was drifting (they'd seen me and cut their engine) ahead of me, off the front of my left shoulder. BOTH were trying to get my attention. The bigger boat was being blown by the wind, and I ended up swimming under its bow. While I was startled, I was NOT injured in any way, and came out from under it without problem.

BUT, we all agreed that not being able to get my attention was a problem. My kayaker had a whistle around her neck, but she lost her thinking and forgot that it was there. The wind was blowing from me to them.

On the way back to the launch point, we experimented with her using the whistle to get my attention. I heard her once out of 4 tries, and it was the only time that the wind had died down a little.

Normally, she's right there with me, and I can see her. So, I do see how "swimming away" contributed to this issue. Note to self: NO MORE swimming away from kayak. BUT, are there other ideas/techniques that people use to get their swimmers attention if shouting and waving don't work? I'm wondering whether I need to have my paddlers practice throwing something like a Nerf ball tied to a line in order to whack me on the back.



  • miklcctmiklcct London, United KingdomMem​ber

    Sorry when I open the link it says:

    This content is not available in your country/region.

    I'm in the EU right now, what does it say?

  • Basically, what I said in the summary....just more words. No news yet on whether the man's body has been recovered.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    Regarding the drowning. This is a scary time of year where I live in the PNW. There are always stories, typically of teens, but also older people drowning in our lakes and rivers. The water is still cold, but the weather is so inviting and in they jump. Then of course we get this variation, where someone jumps in to help someone else. It ends up in yet another tragedy. I had a race car driving instructor tell me that there was no such thing as an accident. He called them "avoidables". His thinking was that there were many events leading to a crash that, if the driver was well trained, could have been avoided. So often, these drownings are in that category.

    Whenever possible the mantra should be repeated. REACH, THROW, ROW, DON'T GO, GET HELP. I wish that every press report on a drowning would state that somewhere in the report. BTW, It's interesting to note that this has changed from when I first learned the mantra, in which the last step was GO. I think that might have been because it was a lifesaving course and so we were trained what to do if you had to GO. The average person probably shouldn't GO, because it so often leads to disastrous results.

    Now to the main question of your thread title. I agree with the idea of being able to have visual contact with your kayaker being the best option. I also think being able to hear a whistle or horn can really be difficult. The water gurgling for me drowns out surface sounds. I'm curious if you could hear a horn blast if the air horn was blasted under water. (I wonder if an air horn would even work under water.) I do know sound carries really well under water. You can hear whales and dolphins from miles away. Maybe there is some sort of device that could generate an underwater sound that we could use to signal an alarm. For that matter, it would be a cool thing for boats to have, just like they have a regular horn.

    Anyway, that's my thought on the whole thing without knowing at all what I'm talking about...

  • @curly I remember, "reach, throw, go" from my days as a pool lifeguard as well!

    Recently, I was watching our master's workout (I'd finished mine and was needing some social time). One of the swimmers got a really bad calf cramp, to the point that she wasn't able to move at all. I was ** that close to jumping in, and then remembered, REACH..... and was easily able to get hold of her arm and pull her to the side. She was in the lane closest to the side, luckily. But, I didn't let go of her until she was able to move easily on her own.

    I don't know about air horns under water. Some whistles MIGHT work, but they mostly depend on the movement of air across different surfaces to produce sound.

    I spent some time today in sporting goods stores looking for things that I might "repurpose" for an attention-getting device. The only drawback to what I saw (mostly, different ropes/lines and floats/buoys on the end for some weight) was that their success would depend on the ability of the paddler to accurately throw.

    Some of my paddlers have pretty good arms. Others............... well, they try. :)

    So, a work in progress.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    Based on my observation that everything I have ever thought of has been thought by someone else and probably invented already, I decided to do a quick google. And it seems as though divers have a similar issue which they have solved by using an underwater noisemaker. Here's a link to an example.

  • @curly


    That’s reasonably priced enough to. Order one “on spec”. Will update after I test it.

  • Great news!
    The "Accous Stick" works great!


    It's hefty, I wouldn't want to have to carry it around in a regular backpack all day. But, as equipment in the kayak, it's easy. It works by shaking it. There's a rattle inside that has some heft as well. It actually reminds me of those shaking barbells that were for sale on late night cable tv awhile ago. lol

    We tested it in the pool last night.

    I could easily hear it from 25 m away. I could "sort of hear" it 10 lanes away. The longer distance is way farther away that I would ever be on the lake, and the 25m distance was also farther than I'd ever be from the kayak. Other people in the group popped their heads up wondering what the clacking noise was.

    Thanks for the research/recommendation!

    For $30, it is a great extra bit of safety/comms on the water.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    @Sara_Wolf How heavy is it? What are the dimensions? Glad to hear it worked.

  • @curly
    It's maybe 6 inches long....
    I can hold it centered in my hand, and only an inch or so sticks out of each end.
    It's about the same weight as a yeti tall tumbler.

    It sits easily in the side pocket of my swim bag, along with water bottles.

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