Safety Guidelines for Coaches and Private Boat Owners

1. High River Flow

River Flow

  • If the dock is not closed but the river flow is somewhat high, LTR groups and less experienced rowers should try to stay upstream of, or close to the dock. That way they can return to the dock quickly.
  • When the river flow is very high, only stronger rowers should go out and less experienced rowers should stay off the water.
  • Note that river flow and height can increase dramatically within an hour.
  • When the flow is over 700 cubic meters per second, only experienced, strong rowers should be allowed on the river. Common sense is the most important factor in deciding whether to row.

River Debris
In high water, if the dock is not closed, it still may be prudent to cancel rowing due to floating river debris. High water brings debris into the river every year. If you can see 2 or 3 large branches or trees floating down river when you are on the dock, it’s probably not prudent to send out rowers because there will be many more around the bend. Bumping into a log generally breaks the fin or worse.

Complete River Closure
There is usually an extended period in June when the river is closed to Edmonton Rowing Club rowers due to unsafe conditions caused by spring runoff. This closure is self-imposed by the club and the decision is made jointly by the Club President, Club Manager and Head coach. Other periodic closures may occur due to heavy rains. During these closures, no club member or private boat owner should row on the North Saskatchewan.

Dock Safety in High Water
During these runoff periods, the dock and ramp will be blocked by barriers to discourage anyone from going on the dock. A sign “Danger, stay off dock” should be posted on the dock barrier. Coach boats should be moved to above the coach boat shed whenever there is complete river closure.

The river flow measurements are available online at:
The figures give the height of the water in metres and the flow in cubic meters per second. Typically, in the summer the height might be 3 metres and the flow 300 m3/s. During high water, the height rises to over 7 metres and over 2000 m3/s.

2. Wind, Lightning and Rain

Criteria for decisions about launching or cancelling in bad weather:
In terms of the criteria to be used for decisions, some of the sources of information that you can draw on:

  • Environment Canada forecasts, radar and warnings.
  • The Weather Network has some predictive radar maps that help to see weather coming.
  • Consult with the Manger – He/She has the power, with the President and the Head Coach, to shut things down totally. If that is done, communicate with all other coaches to let them know. If the dock is closed, it is closed for private boat owners too.
  • Consult with the other coaches. It’s not good if some coaches are saying ‘yes’ and others ‘no’ except for the following point:
    • In some situations, only some stronger rowers should go out and weaker rowers should stay off the water.
    • When there’s lightning, no one should go out
    • Sometimes, if it’s fairly windy (whitecaps), it’s safe for 8+’s only. That way you have fewer boats to watch and there’s less chance of swamping.
    • Sometimes you can row in one sheltered area of the river, while other areas are too choppy. Quite often the water by the Hawrelak footbridge is very rough.

Regarding waiting after lightning:

  • We wait 30 minutes after the last thunder clap/lightning to declare a storm over.
  • Coaches should err on the side of safety if a thunderstorm seems imminent: i.e. stay off the water until it blows by, instead of going on the water and then needing to get off again.
  • Alberta evening weather is notoriously fickle. A huge storm can blow over quickly. Perhaps wait up to 30 minutes after regular starting time if it looks like it’s going to blow over. We don’t want to give up too easily. If you do go out late, make it a short session.
  • Consider taking your group to the tank or ergs for a session if it is available.

Returning to dock:

  • If you do go out and the weather gets worse, have a prearranged signal with all rowers to go back in – 3 whistle blows.
  • If someone flips, other rowers should go back in since you can’t help 2 boats at once, especially in bad weather.

3. Informing Rowers of Cancellations

Email notifications to rowers:

  • For daytime sessions:
    1. Give an early warning by sending an email 2 hours before the scheduled session if it looks like there is a chance of cancellation due to wind, heavy rain or lightning.
    2. One hour before the session, send a final email if it is to be cancelled or
    3. Make a last minute decision at launch time.
  • For early morning sessions, step 1 does not apply.

4. Personal Valuables

It is very highly recommended that all the rowers in your group leave all valuables (money, wallets, phones, keys) in a locked locker while they are on the water. In the past we have had thefts where a passer-by has rifled through all the bags on the ground. The club will supply coaches with a lock to do this for their group. The club cannot take responsibility for the loss of personal effects.

5. River Ice

Recommended procedures for deciding to go out when the river ice is disappearing:

  • Take out a motorboat and survey the stretch of water that you’re planning on using to train. Cruise the whole stretch in the tinny and go upstream a bit of it to see what’s coming.
  • If there’s NO ice in that area and if there’s no ice on the horizon, then let the boats out with strict instructions to stay within that area.
  • If you see any ice within that area or if any is coming down the river, then no boats out.
  • It could be that there will be ice on the other side of the river but none on the dock side. That might be ok.