Professor Paddle: Whistlin' Dixie!
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jP
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  Quote jP Replybullet Topic: Whistlin' Dixie!
    Posted: 25 Mar 2009 at 6:02pm
This topic is about whistles. How to use them, why to use them, where and when.

I think everyone should have one. You don't have to use it. I hardly use mine. Raft guides and teams of Raft guides should use them more often, and have a protocol set for their useage, sometimes specific to the run they are doing.

Here's my understanding of how they're used, and how I use mine:

Most frequently I use mine simply to get someone's attention. This is ussually in a situation when attentions are divided, and I have the parties I need to communicate with in line of sight. Two short blasts (*Breet! Breet!*) are usually what I'll do to get someone to look at me, after which I'll hand signal what ever I need to communicate, or ask for some communication or another. It's an expectation of mine that anyone who's within my line of sight will briefly stop what they are doing and look in my general direction to see what I want. This I learned from being on the river with people more experienced than me, on private and commercial trips alike.

Sometimes I'm creeking with people who use whistles to announce that a drop is clear after someone has dropped it. Because of the horizon line, you often can't see what's happening downstream. One short burst (*BREET!*) seems to effectively communicate that it's ok to go without sounding like something is urgently wrong.

In both cases, you can control the volume of the whistle blast with how hard you blow it.
If you're close enough it doesn't have to be as loud.

A single, big loud blast- (*BREEEEEEEEEET!*) speaks for itself: Shit's going down. All hands on deck. Someone is swimming, a raft has flipped, or something urgent is happening. All heads need to snap in the likeliest direction of the "action", and be ready to assist in a rescue.

In the interest of not ruining someone's "wilderness experience" (  a favorite 'lil inside joke), whistles of course should be used sparingly. That's why I'm not personally a fan of using them to signal that a drop is clear. But if you have a big group, that may become more necessary.

What do you guys think? Is there anything I've said that's different from your experience? There's bound to be regional differences, ect. But if you paddle with me, that's what you can expect on the rare occasion I bust mine out. I'd be interested to see what others have to say...
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Liz
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  Quote Liz Replybullet Posted: 26 Mar 2009 at 8:34am
I've been told and used one quick whistle for means "attention!"  but I've been in groups that use two short blasts for this as well.
 
Three blasts in a row repeated means "something is wrong/someone is in trouble." 
 
But, JP, if I was on a trip and heard one long whistle, I'd get the idea that something wasn't right either.
 
Moral of the story: short whistle patterns mean "attention," longer whistle patterns means "something is wrong." (?)
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 27 Mar 2009 at 12:48pm
yeah, I think that's sensible. Different people in different regions and such (who then all move around and paddle everywhere!) will have different variations of the same basic thing.
 
One thing about a significantly long and sustained blast, is that it's pretty unmistakable that something is wrong and distinguishes itself from all the shorter bursts, so you don't have to remember "ok-was it one blast for a pee break, two to get their attention? No three blasts to get someton'e attention and two blasts meeans it's time for lunch?"
 
Regardless, it may be one of those "Keep it Simple" scenerios.
 
Funny that you're the only one who responded to this. I guess it's too boring, and there's not enough drama in this thread. Well, I certainly ain't interested in ADDING any, so I'm done.
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 27 Mar 2009 at 12:52pm
It is interesting though--it got 79 views! But no input. There in should lie your concern for "the community", Leif!
 
But hey I said I was done, so I am--unless someone else wants to contribute to the discussion--then I'll welcome that!
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  Quote oukr9965 Replybullet Posted: 27 Mar 2009 at 1:18pm

Good topic and one I've often wondered about.  I've always heard one bleep to get attention and three bleeps when stuff hits the fan.  Hand signals could also fall into this category as different groups usually have different signals.  Seems like it's one of those good things that a group should discuss prior to putting on, along with other safety significant items.

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  Quote dblanchard Replybullet Posted: 27 Mar 2009 at 1:25pm
I agree with everything already said, but would like to add that your whistle needs to be handy. I've seen people wrap their lanyard around the shoulder strap of their PFD so many times that they can't blow into it without taking their eyes off the action.

Three reports is universal everywhere I've been; three whistle blasts, three gun shots, three taps on the radiator pipe you're handcuffed to, it all means help.

I've seen schemes like one blast means trouble upstream, two is trouble downstream, and other stuff, but I think eveyrone's best bet is keeping simple, and staying in sight of each other. One short blast for attention, one long for immediate attention/action, three short consecutive blasts for other, less immediate help.

I'm not great about doing this, but whenever paddling with someone new to your group, it would be wise to discuss whistling and to make sure everyone has one close at hand.

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  Quote franzhorner Replybullet Posted: 27 Mar 2009 at 1:49pm
I like the extended blasts for emergencies and short repeated blasts for attention.  I also learned that 3 blasts repeated over and over is an emergency.  I have seen lots of people on the river without a whistle handy.  I would suspect that some have a whistle but not handy. 

The main point I'm taking from this is that groups need to talk about suck stuff before putting in!

I like this kind of discussion!

Hand signals are a whole other discussion!
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  Quote rainpaddle Replybullet Posted: 27 Mar 2009 at 2:18pm
Originally posted by wetmouse

This topic is about whistles. How to use them, why to use them, where and when.


In the interest of not ruining someone's "wilderness experience" (  a favorite 'lil inside joke), whistles of course should be used sparingly. That's why I'm not personally a fan of using them to signal that a drop is clear. But if you have a big group, that may become more necessary.

 
Whistles have a place, however, it has been said by better paddlers than I that they also can induce panic and redirect attention to those who really need it at the moment. Yelling can have the same effect. I think your "sparingly" comment is spot on.
 
Cheers,
 
Rob G, who is trying to graduate from "rock bumper" status
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  Quote huckin harms Replybullet Posted: 27 Mar 2009 at 2:30pm

Good thread JP- draws attention to an often under-appreciated communication strategy.  

With respect to the # of views vs. comments, kinda seems likely that many folks agree with what you said, and therefore had nothing to add.  BUT, feedback is important when trying to establish "group cohesion".   
 
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 27 Mar 2009 at 10:20pm
Yeah, mike, and it could be that it took a little time for folks to get around to reading/commenting, so maybe I was hasty.

 Dblanchard--good points about being able to toot your whistle while keeping your eyes on the action--very important.

And often when I'm setting safety (on commercial raft trips or private river trips) I'll hang out at the trouble spot, with throw bag ready and whistle in mouth, waiting for the next boat(s) to come down. With the whistle in your mouth, it's all ready to go.

as far as inducing panic, I don't consider it a concern. Sparingly is the best policy for most river runners, Raft companies will use them more, and class V boaters will use them slightly more, depending on who they are and their preferences. On class II and III I could see someone new to the river being startled by it, but if the situation warrants it, tough cookies. Generally it should be rarely needed on easier runs.

it's a given that there will be variations. I guess one of the reasons I brought this one up was not to so much establish one "correct" way, nor to impose my methods, so much as to draw people out, almost like a survey, so that we could see how wide the spectrum of variation in our habits are. For example, no one said anything about five blasts.
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 27 Mar 2009 at 10:24pm
Thanks for everyone's input! If you haven't chimed in yet, feel free to add somethin.
Yes, Franzi--

Hand signals would make a great thread. Ideally it would be great to have an illustrated encyclopedia of hand signals as a permanant reference on the site!

But again-- only the first dozen or so hand signals are really needed, after that they're just bound to create more confusion--but we should launch another thread for that can o worms!
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  Quote Ellingferd Replybullet Posted: 28 Mar 2009 at 10:02am
as a guide for many years, the protocol we use on the river is one LONG blast for a swimmer or other emergency (which is almost always swimmer related). other than that, there is no specified number of blasts for emergency, attention, etc. but whenever i am getting someones attention it is usually a varying number of blasts until they look at me.
 
when kayaking, especially on drops where you cant see the person who has just gone and if they were successful, i think it is best to establish what the whistle is going to mean. on last sunshine, for example, when a person goes and then eddies out, a quick two blast on the whistle can tell the next peron to go. or you can just go after 15 seconds or so. either way, the whistle can be a very important piece of safety gear.
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  Quote Ellingferd Replybullet Posted: 28 Mar 2009 at 10:04am
oh, and as a side note, i think that by getting too specific with number of blasts, like 2 for attention, 3 for emergency, 4 for dismemberment, etc. it can get confusing which is why most raft guides just have the one blast emergency.
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  Quote SupaSta Replybullet Posted: 28 Mar 2009 at 12:59pm

Ok JP, you got me.  I'm a viewer and not a commentor on this thread.

The idea to keep it simple is key - especially because newcomers to the area/sport will not know what all your whistle tweetin' is all about.

Short peep for attention and long blast for help is what I've learned and seems most reasonable.  However, since different instructors and different organizations use whistles differently, the best rule is if you hear a whistle, make sure you know who is blowing it and why before you go downstream.

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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 29 Mar 2009 at 8:37pm
I'd rather woop than whistle when it's clear but I can dig the quick blast too. Sticky for sure on this one!
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 29 Mar 2009 at 10:40pm
Oh, I've long been a fan of the Whoop! Yup. Big fan of the Whoop!
It is of a lesser level of urgency, for me. It's more along the lines of the attention-getter whistle blasts.

But here are the disadvantages of the whoop:
shorter range- the sound of a whoop isn't high frequency enough to carry as far up or downstream.
and with exostosis being an issue, more and more people are wearing earplugs under their skullcaps and helmets. So the louder whistle is more effective.

advantages of the Whoop: less annoying if you don't need someone's attention for an emergency, and less likely to desturb wildlife.

The important thing is that those of us who are thinking about subjects like these share our thoughts with the people who are new to the sport who havn't thought yet about this stuff in an in depth way. Thanks for the participation. I think it's more interesting than some of our more tabloid-like threads.
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  Quote SupaSta Replybullet Posted: 29 Mar 2009 at 10:55pm
Originally posted by wetmouse

... I think it's more interesting than some of our more tabloid-like threads.
 
Definitely 
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  Quote fiddleyak Replybullet Posted: 30 Mar 2009 at 10:23pm
I think these points have been made, but I'll add to it:
-A danger signal should always be in a multiple of three.
-A single blast should never indicate danger. One blast usually means "GO" in a situation where you can't see each other. It doesn't make sense that "Stop" could be confused with "Go".
-I usually use two blasts to say "Wait" or "Scout".
-I think the best rule is don't follow your buddy off the blind horizon line unless you hear a single distinct whistle or hoot. If you need confirmation that it's good to go blow your whistle once.
-Whistles should be used sparingly and generally in situations where line of sight contact is not possible.

I think there is great value in coming to a consensus on whistle and hand signals with the people you boat with. I learned the hard way that a paddle held horizontal over the head means "Stop!".

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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 01 Apr 2009 at 4:50pm
Hmm. Ok. That info is contrary to what I've learned and what the consensus seemed to be, but that's ok, and of course your input is valid, dude, if anyone's is.
 
Next time I see you/paddle with you I'll ask you more about it. I guess this thread is more important than I thought!
Thanks.
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  Quote 14kayaking2 Replybullet Posted: 07 Jun 2009 at 9:59am
hmmm, nothing to add....    but whistles...yeah, good idea....     and this way you know that i viewed it and inputted......    nothing
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  Quote mazama Replybullet Posted: 03 Nov 2011 at 9:24pm
one long blast, eh?

I just hope the Varied Thrush isn't around,

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Varied_Thrush/sounds

scroll down for the call
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  Quote Hydrobait Replybullet Posted: 07 Sep 2012 at 8:47pm
Originally posted by fiddleyak

I think these points have been made, but I'll add to it:-A danger signal should always be in a multiple of three. -A single blast should never indicate danger. One blast usually means "GO" in a situation where you can't see each other. It doesn't make sense that "Stop" could be confused with "Go".-I usually use two blasts to say "Wait" or "Scout".-I think the best rule is don't follow your buddy off the blind horizon line unless you hear a single distinct whistle or hoot. If you need confirmation that it's good to go blow your whistle once.-Whistles should be used sparingly and generally in situations where line of sight contact is not possible.I think there is great value in coming to a consensus on whistle and hand signals with the people you boat with. I learned the hard way that a paddle held horizontal over the head means "Stop!".

Huh, I always used toots for attention or "good to go" and LONG blasts for emergency. We never focused on numbers at all really. I think this brings up a good point though, talk with the people you boat with... before you get on the river.
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  Quote H2Ohta Replybullet Posted: 08 Sep 2012 at 7:13am
I have always been taught similar to Jonathan and Ben with regards to number of whistle blasts. One thing that I picked up from I think Rescue Randy, was carrying an extra whistle in my PFD pocket. It comes in handy especially during a rescue situation where you might have to teach someone else to be the safety or "eyes" above a drop and leave them a whistle to warn others about a situation, or to loan it to a paddler that doesn't have one. I feel as though my PFD is not river worthy until I have my whistle, knife, biners, tblocs, webbing and prusiks in or on the PFD. If you can't communicate or aid in a rescue with at least a whistle, you become a liability to your group. Probably the same people that don't have room for a throwbag...
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  Quote wetcat Replybullet Posted: 01 Nov 2012 at 6:28pm
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  Quote Chuck e fresh Replybullet Posted: 04 Nov 2012 at 11:27pm

I was in a life threatening situation....with someone else’s life in my hands, and I remember blowing my three spurt whistles and long drawn out bursts and I know for sure that they were both signaling something was wrong...the thing is, if no one can hear them, they do no good." if a whistle is blown on the river...does it make a sound?" good post.  Moral of the story...Be prepared and properly trained to communicate and have a safe and fun time on the river. Even then you never know what may happen!

There's no such word as can't!so stop making excuses!!!!
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