Thinking back and ahead

I don’t have lots of experience in Sea Kayaks and even less in White Water Kayaks, so I write from the point of view of a beginner. My history on water, though, goes way back. I sailed with my dad for many years on the Chesapeake Bay, sailed Sea Shell dingies in the club’s Frostbite Series, racing during the winter when the temperature hovered close to freezing. I even remember a couple races when the club’s work boat was fired up to break the ice so we could sail. Then later in life I sailed a SunFish on Lake Michigan for a week.

My kayak experience isn’t as great, owning a Whiter Water boat for a few years I quickly found that I really didn’t enjoy White Water, but liked Sea Kayaking, and what on the Chesapeake is called Gunk Holeing, exploring marshes and estuaries along the bay. I feel at home in kayaks but when I bought my own boat this spring I found I didn’t really feel at one with the boat.

Then the Admiral of the Fleet suggested we both take a local class in Rescue and Recovery, and I readily agreed. Robert, the instructor started by telling us that we would work to exhaustion, lots of work. And after about 3 hours we both knew he was right.

I was the first to go over and be rescued. The first thing I learned was that a Sea Kayak doesn’t go over easily. Then when my partner tried to rescue me the first time she over did it, and I went over the boat and back into the water. But we both learned fast how to get back into our boats both with a rescue boat and if we go over when out alone. And my confidence in the Kayak really increased. After that class I began to feel at one with my boat. Of course after each paddle, especially in (slightly) rough water and breezy conditions my confidence increases even more.

If you’ve never had a class in Rescue I highly recommend taking one, The one we took was in a small tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, but I guess a pool would be just about as good. I also recommend watching some YouTube videos, search for paddle float, there are many videos available. Also Sea Kayaker Magazine has been running an article or two in the past few issues. They are good reading. Another good source of reading is PADDLENEWS: The Weekly Newsletter of Paddling Network and their Weekly Email Newsletter. Subscribe to that and read news and news and articles, the last issue had a good article on rescue.

I met two White Water kayakers this afternoon, they were headed out onto a calm river with the intention to practice their rolls. As the weather cools and paddling gets ‘weathered out’ I’m planning on taking the Rescue class again next spring. I think it is well worth it.


About Mike

I'm an avid bicyclist, that also enjoys Kayaking, Nature Photography, Cross Country Skiing and Geocaching. There's nothing more boring than sitting indoors in "good" weather.
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2 Responses to Thinking back and ahead

  1. seattlehiker says:

    Next you need to practice your paddle-float self-rescue in rougher water. Obviously, you want to step this up slowly, and always bring at least one other person, but preferably more. If there’s a smaller lake where seaplanes land and take off, you’d be surprised how much chop they kick up, at least close to them. Concrete reflecting walls are good, too.

    What sort of pump(s?) do you use? I’m sure you’ve noticed that the kayak is much less stable until you empty it of water. There are foot pumps, and even motorized ones, so that both of your hands are free to use the paddle for stability until your boat is empty. I’m sure you’ve practiced bracing to avoid a capsize?

    After that, a more difficult task is to learn to roll your kayak, ie to right it without leaving the cockpit. All the world’s best salt water kayakers will tell you the only thing a paddle float is good for, is marking one’s grave. I agree with their main concern: if the water is rough enough to knock you out of the boat, it’s going to be a hard time getting back in and staying there. This isn’t really a concern on flatwater, though.

    • ka8b says:

      My partner and I plan on taking the Rescue and Recovery class again this spring. After the class we took this spring I watch a U-Tube video of a solo Paddle Float recovery in rough water and it made me think twice about going out in rough water.

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