Note: large parts of this guide are adapted or taken directly from the original Ephemerisle survival guide. This event however is in no way connected or official endorsed by TSI.
Safety and Survival
Participants who attend Ephemerisle will have to bring all personal necessities to the event: food, shelter, water, fuel, necessary medications, and basic first aid supplies. Please keep in mind that you are responsible for yourself at all times, in every regard, as you approach, once you enter, and as you leave the Ephemerisle site.
Above and beyond the provision for individual survival, everyone is requested to help ensure our collective survival by following very basic rules relating to public safety and community well being. We ask you to please abide by these standards.
If you read nothing else please read these 4 points:
YOU are responsible for getting yourself to and away from the event site and for everything you’ll need to live there and survive for your stay. There are few to no resources adjacent to the event site, and none on the water. Think carefully about what you’ll need, and plan ahead!
Never forget that you’re living on the water, which requires a higher degree than usual of personal vigilance. If your step is already unsteady, walking on an unstable floating surface will make balance more challenging. Wakes from passing craft add another level of complexity, as does the movement of close-moored vessels against one another.
Being inebriated at the event is highly discouraged. If you are under the influence and cannot take care of yourself, you are not capable of being radically self-reliant or safe which poses a threat to yourself and others. There are no dedicated medic boats, and getting emergency help in a timely manner is a very difficult task. This isn’t like Burning Man where people overdosing can simply lie down on the playa; it’s a dangerous place full of drowning and crushing hazards. Also, if you are overly inebriated, we will make fun of you mercilessly and write on your forehead with a permanent marker. :-)
A few recommendations:
1. Watch your intake. Don’t push your limits on what you can handle. If others are asking you if you’re ok, take that as a moment to assess your objectivity. Corollary: If you’ve never taken a substance (or mixed substances) before, Ephemerisle is *so* not the place to pop that cherry.
2. If you become intoxicated and need help, ask others and stay put. Going from area to area under the influence is not recommended. If you do need to transport yourself, wear a life vest.
3. If you run into someone who you are concerned about ask them about their state, in addition, recommend that they put a life vest on.
So if a person falls overboard and everything looks OK – don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all – they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents – children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.
As long as we’re on the public waterways, we’re required to follow all federal, state and local regulations. Know the ABCs of California Boating Law, and abide by them. Every person must have a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) though they do not have to wear it at all times; all children under 12 must be WEARING a PFD unless in an enclosed cabin. All vessels must be legally registered unless they’re only human-propelled. If you’re going to operate a vessel as part of your participation in Ephemerisle, learn about the relevant operational laws and water-based “rules of the road”. If you are sleeping on a platform, make sure you bring a life vest; they’re super cheap and there’s no excuse for not having one around. If you are renting a houseboat, the marina will probably walk you through what you need to know.
Leave No Trace
The Federal Refuse Act prohibits discharging or depositing any refuse matter of any kind into United States waters. Refuse includes: garbage, trash, oil, and other liquid pollutants. This rule includes human waste. Note that concern about violation of these regulations creates probable cause for a state or local peace officer or Coast Guard representative to board your vessel. You will need to make plans to minimize and control your waste to ensure it doesn’t blow or fall into the water.
It may be possible to cross to 200 feet from H&M marina to Venice Island, portage your craft 2 miles to the other side of the island, and then cross another couple of hundred feet to the festival. Check before doing this and see if the entire island is private property.
With a very shallow draft boat, it should be possible to make the 8 mile trek from Bethel Island. But be warned, and check the charts, because Franks Tract is only a foot or two deep in places.
What to bring?
Listed in this spreadsheet.
House boats provide the primary supply of bathrooms. If you’re not staying on a house boat, plan on introducing yourself to your house boat neighbors to arrange access. In 2011 several house boats reached the capacity of their sewage holding tanks on the last day. For 2012 we’re planning on having the Septic Brothers (209-329-0768) pump out service visit once during the event.
House boats make self-reliance a helluva lot easier, providing bathrooms, showers, power, and kitchens well stocked with cooking utensils.
Maritime Safety – Boating Rules
The California Department of Boating and Waterways has published a free booklet titled “ABCs of the California Boating Law” that we encourage all participants to obtain and review. Delta waterways are crowded in the summer, and anyone operating a vessel should be familiar with the “inland rules of the road”, rules about navigation aids (what different buoys mean), rules for boating in congested areas, and rules for registration of watercraft. More information is available at www.dbw.ca.gov or by calling 1-888-326-2822.
BUI – Don’t Do It
“Boating Under the Influence” is a huge factor in boating accidents in the Delta, and is a major enforcement focus for the Coast Guard and San Joaquin Country Sheriff’s Office. No one is allowed to operate a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs; a blood level as low as .05% may be used to indicate BUI. We’ll have plenty of chance to party once stationary at the event site – please WAIT to begin your celebration until you’re safely docked or anchored
Because the Delta is a tidal area with river currents and a very loose mud bottom, anchoring is unusually challenging in the area of the event. If you are not an experienced Delta boater, we do not encourage you to attempt to anchor your craft on your own. See Anchoring for more details.
120v electricity and the water is a dangerous combination. But if you have to do it, make sure to get GFCI adapters for every cord which might get near the water if the boat doesn’t already have them installed.
In the heat of the Delta summer, the river provides a wonderful and refreshing opportunity to cool off, play with water-based toys, and enjoy our aquatic environment. But it’s also true that the Ephemerisle site will be a congested area with lots of vessels, moving water, and visibility limited to 16-18”. Water depths in this area range from 8-32’ – know where you are before you dive!
The waters of the Delta can seem deceptively gentle, but you’re in the middle of a big flowing river that’s also subject to tidal influences. Boats not properly secured will drift and become hazards. Anything that goes into the water will end up in a different place than it started. Respect your environment at all times!
Use of PFDs
All vessels and platforms are required to contain a life jacket – aka personal flotation device (or PFD) – for each passenger, as well as one throwable rescue float. Children under age 12 must WEAR the PFD at all times when not in an enclosed cabin. If you’re planning to camp on someone else’s craft, be sure to ensure that they have a PFD for you – or bring your own!
Radio / Cell Phone
It is a good idea for all participants to keep a marine radio or a cell phone (in a sealed ziplock) on them with the phone #s of at least two other participants in memory. If someone is dragged downstream, they may be able to float to shore but it could be a miserable day/night with the possibility of hypothermia before they’re located.
Kids on the Water
Ephemerisle is a particularly dangerous environment for children, although several well-supervised children did attend in 2009, and all had a marvelous experience. If you plan to bring your child, plan to be highly vigilant at all times. Minors (those under 18) may only attend if accompanied by a parent or guardian. As noted above, children under 12 must wear a PFD at all times when not in an enclosed cabin. You can find special child-sized life jackets online.
Sleeping on Platforms or Roofs
For obvious reasons, sleeping on an open platform introduces an additional element of danger. We strongly encourage anyone building a platform to construct a safety railing around the platform perimeter. Some platform spaces – like the roofs of houseboats and motor yacht swim platforms – don’t easily lend themselves to this solution, and so effectively constitute “attractive nuisances”: they SEEM like a very appealing place to hang out or sleep, but can be very dangerous.