This manual should be read by all members, and is to be used primarily by the Coaches, Steerspersons, Team Captains and Drummers, as a guide, to train all members of the Haliburton Highlands Paddlers (HHP) about “Dragon Boat Safety Guidelines.”
Dragon Boat Canada Safety Guidelines should also be read and understood by all members of HHP.
Safety of all club members is the number one priority in helping all members paddle/steer/drum in a rewarding and secure environment.
2.0 Role of Coach, Steersperson, Drummer (coaching pod)
Chain of Command
1st in Command – Coach
2nd in Command – Steersperson
3rd in Command – Team Captain (if applicable) – assigned by Coach
Definition: “Next in Command” will be that person so designated by the Coach, each time the Haliburton Highlands Paddlers go on the water.
The Coach, Steersperson and Drummer are in control of the dragon boat and are in the best position to make decisions and give directions involving safety. Together they:
- Ensure the safety of a team on the water during practice and during any festival by following the established procedures, as stated herein.
- Ensure a crew/team does not jeopardize the safety of other vessels on the water during training and races.
- Teach the team to be responsible in meeting the above two (2) goals, and that everyone has a responsibility for “SAFETY”.
- Determine whether the boat and crew remain on the water, or return to dock, or head for calmer water.
Weather, Wave and Wind Patterns
Prior to each outing, the Coach is responsible for checking the local weather forecast. If there are any weather related concerns the practice will be cancelled.
If the Coaching Pod does not have the experience/skill necessary to ensure a safe practice, the team does not go out onto the lake. The Coach can decide not to proceed with practice based on weather and the following considerations:
- Steersperson’s level of experience and confidence
- Paddlers’ level of experience and confidence
- Awareness of heavy crews in waves, as they are already sitting low in the water.
- Direct side waves are most dangerous for swamping/sinking the boat. As water goes over the side/gunwale, the respective side of the boat begins to sink, letting in even more water.
- Head winds are less likely to sink the boat but will make it difficult getting back to the dock. If you are paddling with a novice crew, it may take a long time. Do not panic and force the crew to get back to dock faster. Remain calm and encourage the crew with a steady paddle.
- When the boat becomes unstable, some paddlers will panic and stop paddling. This will cause even more instability to the boat. Encourage paddlers to continue paddling to minimize the chance of swamping/capsizing.
- Steersperson should be familiar with how to compensate for the wind/waves. It is best to orientate the dragon boat with or against the direction of the wave, to avoid the waves hitting the dragon boat on the sides.
When severe weather is approaching get off the water immediately!
Various “safe” landing docks should be appointed for use in the event of an emergency. These sites and their 911 emergency numbers should be noted on a map and brought to the attention of coaches, steerspersons and crew.
3.0 Member Personal Safety
Management shall ensure that an appropriate safety program is drawn up and that coaches implement it in accordance with the guidance provided in the Dragon Boat Canada Guidelines as applicable.
Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)
CSA approved PFDs must be worn in the proper manner at all times while in the dragon boat and on the dock.
- Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) must be worn at ALL times while on the docks, or in the dragon boat. There are absolutely NO exceptions to this rule.
- To ensure safety for yourself and your team, please select the proper size of PFD based on your body size and type. If unsure, please check with your Coach, Team Captain, or Equipment Manager.
- DO NOT sit or rest on PFDs. The added compression to the PFDs will decrease the PFDs buoyancy
- Each member should be able to swim and be comfortable in water. If not, that member must alert the Coaching Pod.
- Each crew member is solely responsible for his or her own safety at any time while engaging in activities related to practicing and racing in the dragon boat.
- Any injuries occurring as a result of participating in the practices or races must be reported immediately to the Coaching Pod.
- The Haliburton Highlands Paddlers “Safety, Rules and Regulations” must be observed at all times during practices and where applicable, during races.
- We give right-of-way to ALL vessels to ensure our safety.
The steersperson should be aware of all water traffic and the hazards caused by their possible wakes. We give way to all traffic whether it be quiet vessels such as canoes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards etc. or motorized vessels such as fishing boats, personal water craft, etc.
4.1 Loading and Unloading (Coach to Coordinate and Execute)
- Roster team on shore in the order of rows prior to walking down to the dock.
- Have team walk down to the dock, maintaining this line up.
- Prior to loading or unloading, ensure the dragon boat is tied at both the bow and stern.
- Maintain this line up on the dock next to the boat (or on the land if so instructed).
- Load and unload the boat by seat as instructed by the coach/steersperson.
4.2 Checking Boat Balance (Coach and Steersperson to Coordinate and Execute)
- After all paddlers have boarded the boat, the mooring ropes are untied.
- Request paddlers to push off from dock using their hands. DO NOT use the blade end of the paddle. Let the dragon boat come to rest.
Ensure everyone is next to the gunwale and sitting straight up.
- Check the balance.
- Have paddlers move positions as required to balance boat.
Once the dragon boat is balanced as well as possible, commence with the practice.
4.3 Seat Changes (Coach and Steersperson to Coordinate and Execute)
The Coach and the Steersperson will try to balance the boat prior to boarding and will make required changes to the seating arrangement, if there is an imbalance after the boat has been loaded.
- If paddlers need to move to another seat, “hold” (stop) the dragon boat.
- All paddlers must “feather the water” while the dragon boat is at a complete stop. This keeps the dragon boat stable from side to side (left to right). Continue to “feather the water” until the coach instructs the paddlers to stop.
- One paddler at a time, as instructed by the coach, shall be moved within the dragon boat.
- Once all the seat changes are made, coach instructs the paddlers to release “let it ride” and practice continues.
4.4 Rescue Procedure
Swamped or Capsized Dragon Boat during a Practice or Race
- Once a dragon boat begins to capsize, it is very difficult to stop it. If you are on the higher side of the boat when it begins to go over, try to jump clear of your seat partner to avoid injury to her/him.
- If you come up under the boat, it will be dark, but there will be an air pocket available for you to catch your breath and get your bearings.
- Feel your way to the side of the boat and then surface on the outside. All individuals MUST stay with the dragon boat. Hold the dragon boat gunwales to help remain with the dragon boat.
- The “Buddy System” will be utilized – all paddlers must ensure their seat partner is present. The drummer/coach in the drummer seat will be buddied with the paddlers in seat one. The steersperson will be buddied with the back two paddlers in the boat. The Coach, Steersperson or Team Captain will initiate a head count (i.e. roll call of the paddlers in their seated rows) to ensure that everyone is accounted for.
- If a member is missing follow procedures for missing individual (Find and Rescue).
- Next in Command to assess whether any person(s) is injured or requires immediate assistance
- Once all paddlers are accounted for, stay calm and stay with the boat. Next in Command to use whistle to attract attention from individuals on shore or in other vessels. A dragon boat in distress is easily recognizable. If needed a 911 call will be made.
- Next in Command will notify 911 if any person(s) are missing or require immediate assistance.
- Help those in need to any boat rendering assistance first.
- Remove the paddlers from the water as soon as possible.
- Shuttle groups to the nearest shore or to the dock depending on the distance.
- Tow the dragon boat (right side up) to the dock. Any able bodies should be available to assist in removing water from the dragon boat.
The “Buddy System”
- Know the person paddling in the seat next to you. In the event of an incident, you are responsible for ensuring that your partner is present.
- Each person is also assigned a row number from 1 to 10 before loading onto the dragon boat
- In the event of a boat capsizing, the Coach/Steersperson and drummer will buddy up after everyone is accounted for, to assess for injuries and to decide upon the best plan going forward.
Find and Rescue
Have paddlers look and feel around for the missing paddler(s) in their immediate vicinity without leaving the dragon boat.
- Each paddler to feel under the boat, within their immediate proximity, to see if the missing paddler is under the boat.
- If necessary, one individual ONLY, should check under the boat to ensure the missing person is not trapped underneath. This one individual will be assigned by the Next in Command.
Swimming to Shore in the Event of a Capsize or Swamped Dragon Boat
- This option can ONLY be exercised if the dragon boat is located approximately 50 metres away from shore.
- Once the entire team is accounted for, the coaching pod will poll the team to determine if all are comfortable with a decision to swim to shore.
- If ANY individual on the team is not comfortable swimming to shore, the ENTIRE TEAM shall remain together with the dragon boat. If the decision is to swim to shore, a head count is required on shore to ensure the entire team is accounted for.
5.0 Mandatory Dragon Boat Equipment Required on Board
The Dragon Boat Must Contain the Following Equipment at All times During a Practice or Race:
- One (1) bailer located underneath the last row.
- Two (2) whistles, attached to the lifejackets.
- First Aid Kit, a list of 911 addresses and a map, placed in a dry bag.
- Cell phone
On shore, the coach will have a binder with all participants’ emergency contact and medical information
6.0 Reference Material
- Dragon Boat Canada (www.dragonboat.ca)
- Canadian Coast Guard (http://www.ccg-gcc.gc.ca)