Prairie State Canoeists
A Northeast Illinois Canoe and Kayak Club
On Saturday February 3, 2024 this was a trip unlike any other, a journey into hands-on learning. It was a unique class led by Steve Voss and several aids for a class full of 20 enthusiastic students with full spectrum from novices to veterans in paddling experience. Everyone had something to learn. Steve like always was absolutely fantastic and aids were very helpful. And no one can forget the ever present aid Ceejay who lends a helping hand in preparing and helping all the time. She is the one who prepared the wonderful handy booklet that we all got at the start of the class.
The stage was set with multiple work stations and display stations prepared by teacher’s gang. There were many rope lengths for students to practice. A table of different types of throw bags was setup for learning on what to buy and for what purpose. Just then someone asked “What is a throw bag?” “What kind of rope is used for what purpose?” “Which rope offers good grip vs. friction?”, “Does a stretchable rope help at all?” “Which brand is good?” And, the questions started coming from students from all directions. This was also a great lesson in knots (and climbing) terminology, something many of us didn’t know. A video player and screen was setup too. Steve used another unique teaching tool for a different purpose suitably for students to practice knot tying. The tool was paddler’s box. You should see it, it is pretty neat thing. And this was just the first floor.
We started off by watching and quickly analyzing few videos depicting real life rescue situations. Team was pretty good at making some of the obvious observations on what was wrong in those real life situations.
Then the real fun began. One by one we learned how to tie about 20 different knots, their advantages over other knots, their weaknesses and their applications in real life. Everyone was doing something, trying the knots. Some were more fun than others and everyone got it. It was a very active, busy dynamic room with people tying knots to chairs, table supports, the mobile props and many other tools. Of course, with everything else, the challenge is remembering the knots and then applying them in real-life situations. I am glad Steve did not conduct an exam at the end. Practice! Practice! Practice! is the next thing, whether it is tying a boat to a vehicle or erecting a tent or help out in a rescue situation.
Two more elaborate setups were prepared by Steve to demonstrate Voodoo knot and Zee-Drag in the basement and if that was not enough, Steve had setup a vector pull-effect system outside the building with a canoe and two throw ropes around a tree. Someone took the photos during the whole event, and if available, they are worth seeing. Voodoo setup also had a force-meter to demonstrate how mechanical advantage helps in creating a larger pull by the use of pulleys and carabiners. One does not have to be a mechanical engineer to figure out how to use basic devices like pulleys and carabiners to build a simple machine for mechanical advantage to overcome the force of water in a river in a pinned boat or rescue situation. The mechanical advantage was easily 3 to 1 in many cases. Steve and the aids demonstrated everything to actually see how different knots and systems worked which was pretty cool.
Overall the class was outstanding with so much hands on learning that every paddler should know and keep on practicing. There was so much information thrown at us that we had to make a sponge out of our brains and somehow absorb everything and retain it. One lesson learned was that everyone should carry a good throw bag, not for himself/herself but for others in the team. Everyone should carry an 8-10 ft. of rope attached to the bow and stern for towing, etc. Preparation is the key to a successful rescue and team work is very important. Team work was emphasized.
I hope every PSC paddler takes this class at least once.