Weekends on the Ottawa are a zoo. Sometimes it looks like the safety boaters are overwhelmed at McCoys. When I had a good run through on Sunday morning, I came across a swimmer that I gave a stern and helped her get to shore. I was very careful to give clear instruction and to not whack her with a paddle. Aside from being a nice thing to do, I was wondering about the rules and legality of this.
Should I cruise through and not get involved in case something happens? I’m aware of the politics that surrounds rafting. Has there been a precedent set?
I am a safety boater for a rafting company on the Ottawa. In general the bottom of McCoys is relatively safe for swimmers-deep and flat. Most raft guides should be able to clean up their clients there on their own without the help of a safety boater. However, rafters do float off on their own, which is where the safety boater steps in to give them a hand.
As for your role as a bystander…I would say leave the rafters and go take another surf or grab lunch on shore until the rafts are done surfing. Rafters have high float lifejackets; it is the raft guides responsiblity to clean up their clients; and at worst they just drift an inconvient distance down stream (more irritating than dangerous). That said, some times things do happen. So if you see someone who is obviously hurt or extremely distrested, give them a hand or get the attention of the raft guide or safety kayaker so that they can attend to the matter. Use your own judgement.