General safety guidance and Amber conditions

This page contains information designed to keep you, your fellow rowers and other river users safe. The guidance is aimed at adult members as juniors will be under the control of a coach.

River State Traffic Light System

The club monitors the state of the river and there are three river states it uses to alert members. The GREEN state means that river conditions are normal and there are no special restrictions on who can go out, the AMBER state means that conditions are more challenging and certain restrictions on who should boat apply, and RED state means conditions are dangerous and no member should attempt to row.

The club publishes rules on the restrictions which apply under amber.

Red, Amber, Green Rules

The club operates an assessment regime to help single scullers determine if they should be rowing under amber. The assessment comprises a basic skills test and a verbal check on knowledge of amber rules and how to navigate safely under amber conditions.

MIRC – Single Sculling Readiness Assessment Checklist

MIRC Assessors for Amber Single Sculling

The club urges all members to familiarise themselves with the amber rules and the information below.

An amber state is usually implemented due to a fast stream, high winds, cold air temperature or a combination of these factors. These can increase risk to rowers in the following ways:

  • A fast stream increases boat speed going downstream so hazards approach more swiftly. It makes it harder to row back against the stream so rowing upstream of the club is advised for less strong rowers. Extra space above hazards should be allowed when turning.
  • High wind can have a similar effect as a strong stream. It can also create rough water conditions in certain areas. If rough water is encountered and swamping is a danger then it is recommended to stop, turn your bows into the waves and adopt the safe position with your blades.
  • Cold air temperature and wind chill can induce hypothermia and makes a capsize more hazardous. Symptoms to watch out for in another rower include shivering, blue lips, slurred speech and confusion. If you spot these conditions take charge and insist they return to the club immediately.

Main hazards between the town and Allington

  • The town bridges
  • Sharp bends below the club, at Springfield, at the Sewage Works and at Allington Marina
  • The water intake wooden piles at Springfield
  • The wooden pylons half way down the straight to the White House
  • The weir and lock at Allington (high risk in strong stream conditions)
  • Other river users – cruisers, dinghies, canoes, paddle-boarders

Navigation rules

  • Keep to the right-hand side of the river in the direction of travel, especially important on bends.
  • When turning the boat always turn from the right-hand side so you end up on the correct side facing the way you wish to go, keep a good lookout and do not attempt to turn on a blind corner.
  • It is recommended that you look round at least every 5 strokes (more frequently if moving fast). As a rule of thumb if you can see the bow ball of your own boat then you are looking far enough round.

Boat checks

Always check your boat before you put it on the water. This should be done before all outings but is especially important under amber conditions. The things to check are:

  • Shoe heel restraints are in position and secure. These should not allow the heel of the shoe to come above the horizontal so that in a capsize your feet will pull out of the shoes.  A sharp tug is recommended to ensure they will not break.
  • Shoe velcro fastenings can be released with a single pull. The fastening on both shoes should be linked so only one hand action is required.
  • All watertight hatches are in position and secure.
  • Riggers are secure and all nuts tight.
  • The boat has a bow ball and it is in good condition.
  • Check the hull for any cracks or holes which might leak.

Easiest places to get out of the water in a capsize between centre of town and Allington. Better to get out on the towpath side if possible as then easier to return to the club.

  • Under the town bridges on either side
  • Tall metal ladders on the high wall (Asda side) on town straight (grab chains also installed along the wall at water level)
  • Steps on the town straight just above the railway bridge on tow path side
  • The rowing club steps
  • The canoe club steps (opposite the rowing club)
  • Slipway downstream of the canoe club steps before boathouse bend
  • Towpath at Moncktons Lane just below the pumping station at Springfield
  • Slipway at Fords Wharf marina before the sewage works (awkward but possible in an emergency)
  • King’s School Rochester boathouse steps just above Allington Marina
  • Towpath opposite King’s Rochester boathouse (bank low and water is shallow)
  • Slipway above Allington Lock (grab chains also installed at water level along the wall in front of the Malta Inn)

Capsizing in a single scull

A capsize in a single scull can be frightening and disorientating, especially if conditions are more challenging. However the dangers can be much reduced if you know how best to react. The club organises regular capsize drills and if you wish to scull under amber conditions then you must have undertaken a capsize drill, either at Maidstone or with another club. Even if you have attended a capsize drill we strongly urge you to view the videos below which demonstrate what to do and how best to protect yourself. They also show how you can support someone else by acting as their ‘buddy’.

British Rowing capsize and buddy rescue video

Rowperfect – capsize drill and how to get back in

Once the person who has capsized is safely to shore and if conditions are cold then the priority as their buddy is to get them back to the club, either by water or along the towpath. Try to secure boats so they can be collected later but ultimately the person is obviously more important. If conditions are mild it may be possible for the person to be helped back into their boat once they have reached the bank so they can row back to the club.

Know your own limits

Ultimately it is your own decision whether to row under any conditions. The chances are that if you feel uncertain about conditions then the wise decision is DO NOT GO OUT. There will always be another day!