Jim Baird's Arctic Adventure: Keeping an Eye on Your Buddy

We were making good time over the hard-packed drifts on Great Bear lake . I had to focus all my attention on the drifts I was hitting; I got air on a few of them. Meanwhile, Ted's toboggan lashing had broken and needed to be retied so he stopped. He watched me ride into the distance and disappear. We got split up another time on the trip, too: Ted said he was going to drive over land. I said I was going to follow the coast. We both took off thinking the other one was following. It was pretty scary. With the muffling effects of the helmet, combined with the noise of the machine, and howling winds, it's tough to hear a word anyone says. There are a few key things you can do to avoid getting split up and steps to insure that you will reunite if you do.

Plan. Part of the stress of being separated is wondering what the other person would do. Are they going to the finishing point? Would they have gone back to last night's camp? Are they driving around aimlessly looking for me? If you start out with a solid plan your worries become far less.

Communicate. I didn't carry walk-e-talkies on this trip, but I will on the next one. This can be all it takes to very easily find each other especially if you both have a GPS device. Yell. No one can hear you over the noise of the machine, you have turn the machines off or scream.

Signal. Go over some hand signals. You don't have to learn sign language or signal like a baseball coach--just a few basic signals like a water skier uses will go a very long way and will be easier on your voicebox.
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Follow the route.** Before you start the trip make sure you're both on the same page. If you do get separated you should be able to follow your trail back to the point where you split up and then begin following your buddies trail until you find him. If both of you are doing this you will be reunited faster.

Know the destination. Whether you have walk-e-talkies or not, both people should know where the final destination for that day is. It would also help if you have a rendezvous spot picked out half way to meet at incase you get separated. Make sure you both know where to meet if you get separated.

Turn around. As you travel, look over your shoulder every few minutes. You have to stand up and rotate your body to see behind you, which is kind of annoying, but it's an important safety measure. If your buddy is far behind wait up a bit. Everyone will be safer if you stay closer together.

Navigate. Carry a GPS, map, and compass in both machines. This way if you get separated, you'll both have the means to navigate confidently.