rescue from a boat, and I guess I would have given it a try, though a panicky and gasping swimmer is difficult and dangerous to help.
I don't think the guy was in any danger of leg entrapment where he was on the river. The current there isn't super strong. I've experienced leg entrapment, and it takes a stronger current to lock a leg into a slot.
The most difficult step, rescuing a guy from a solo whitewater canoe, is to get him to hang on so I can tow him, or to pull him aboard. A newby, weak from struggling, is not likely to be able to assist in boarding. And if he isn't wearing a pfd, what is there for me to grab?
I remember one old lady who had popped out of a raft on the Nantahala. She took proper hold of my stern painter, but then she went into passive mode, and did absolutely nothing to help me tow her to the bank. But we made it anyway.
Paddler's Truck Rack
PFD's (Life Jackets)
2-3 Canoe/Kayak Trailer
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