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Floating by yourself

For those of you that have been kayaking for awhile, how long was it before you kayaked alone? Were you on a lake or did you go down a river? Okay ladies, do you go kayaking by yourself or do you always have someone with you?


  • Quickly
    We started by taking a couple of sea kayak classes in which we practiced self-rescue. We knew we wanted sea kayaks, but couldn't afford two at once. We bought one single kayak and took turns paddling(in appropriate conditions) until we decided on and could afford a second boat.
  • Options
    Maiden voyage
  • Options
    Is there a difference between paddling a yak by yourself, and going out in a canoe by yourself?

    Why would you NOT go by yourself? I prefer to go by myself, as people generally bother me lol. That's just me though.
  • Although safest to paddle with a
    buddy, solo paddling can be a great escape and exploration. Please just be sure you can self-rescue or walk to shore, wear a well fitted life jacket, file a float plan, dress for the weather, wind, and water, carry a spare paddle & clothes, have water & snacks and a bit of first aid gear, some emergency signalling stuff (little compass, map, mirror, whistle, smoke/flare(s), and have good communications - cell phone in a waterproof pouch (be sure you have service). Most fit in a dry bag or two. Others may have more hints. Enjoy, R
  • Been paddling alone from the get go
    -- Last Updated: Apr-03-10 9:41 AM EST --

    Occasionally rivers, but shuttles payable by one get expensive. Thats where groups are handy.

    For that reason too I have had to be creative when arranging fly ins as the charges go both ways.

    Been paddling alone(I dont know what floating is other than an inner tube) from Florida to Northern Ontario. Often do not see anyone for two weeks.

  • Options
    More to the story...
    Kathy neglected to mention that she can't swim. And that she doesn't have a self-rescue.

    Of course, the river we normally go kayaking on is narrow and not very deep, but it also has fairly long stretches where there is no good place to land due to the shore being heavily forested and/or steep (cliffs in some places) and if your boat gets away from you, there's often no place to walk on the shore...
  • There is more to everyones story
    and I think the place to start with is instruction.

    I forgot to say that when I first soloed I was taking twice a week kayaking classes.

    I did not start soloing by crossing Long Island Sound..merely by staying along the shore for several miles.

    Accurate risk management is the first priority in any solo outing. It does not matter if its the first or the last. And this is a discussion best had with yourself and not listening to others explots.
  • Options
    I'm going to say this as nicely as possible. Kathy, please learn to swim!!! If you can learn to paddle a boat..you can learn to swim. There is no such thing as an avid paddler that hasn't tipped over at least once. Even if someone is there, and even if you have a pfd, when you tip you're in danger and plenty of people drown even with company around and while wearing a pfd every year. Please dont be one of them. All public pools and most gyms with a pool offer swimming lessons. Take the time to learn to swim, you'll be glad you did...and will probably feel empowered doing so. Put away your kayak until you can swim, none of us want to read about you drowning on here.
  • kayaking alone
    When I first started paddling, I would paddle alone anywhere I would swim alone.

    Someone else noted that you can't swim, so then it would be where you would get in the water alone... sorta limiting if you can't swim.

    I think if you can not swim and you ended up in the water inadvertently, you may panic and it could present challenges to you to re-enter your kayak and then continue paddling. Why don't you take a swimming lesson so that you can progress in your paddling?

  • About
    80% of the time I solo kayak on our rivers and lakes in N. California. Not completely solo as my Border Collie is my paddle partner and rides in back on my Tarpon 160. Both of us wear a PDF! Might add that in the winter/spring months when water is cold, I almost always paddle with a friend(s) as cold water can be deadly. But for warm weather, nothing beats a 2-3 day paddle trip, dog on board, quiet, peaceful, snapping photos, camping under the stars...almost a religious experience when in the mountains and star gazing.
  • Options
    Never paddled with another
    All of my trips have been solo. No wait. One time my wife went with me, but she was in the inflatable tahiti and didn't enjoy it much.
    Another couple of weeks and I will be taking all four kids and my wife on short trips around our small bay though.

    We will be getting out a lot more often in the next few months too.
  • paddling alone -- it's about judgment
    I do most of my paddling alone on an inland lake in North Carolina -- though I wish I lived about 150 miles closer to the saltmarshes and blackwater streams that I love. My lake is pretty benign; your river may not be. But there might be other, safer places for you to paddle alone. (I started out on a small reservoir.)
    There was a guy in a class I took who couldn't swim. Didn't seem to bother him too much. So I think that you could paddle alone too if you really, really practiced being in the water wearing flotation -- so that you DON'T panic if you're ever out of your boat. You'd need to get comfortable. Ideally, you could just float and paddle yourself to shore if you ever had to.
    The thing I try to think about is the margin of safety -- keeping it high, reducing risk as much as I can.
    Winter paddles to check on an eagle's nest are the riskiest ones for me. I dress for cold water, take an entire change of clothes in a drybag, carry a cell phone and stay near shore. I figure that if I capsize I have at least 3 options: and roll or swim to shore are preferred. I just try not to be stupid.
    Like some other people who replied to your post, I love paddling alone, being in nature, and emptying my head of every thought except what I'm seeing around me.
    Ginger in NC
  • Kayakmedic -- trip reports?
    Kayakmedic, I do like the sound of your postings about long trips. Do you write up your trips the way JackL does?
    G in NC
  • Options
    paddling solo
    started solo from the get, still do it majority of the time. I like lakes, all sizes.

    Took lessons very quickly into it & still take a bunch and paddle all over the state.

    Skills/Technique bores some people. To me it's a game between me & myself. But it also has very real repercussions when and where I paddle, solo or not. It informs my judgement how I handle myself solo or how I contribute to group safety.

    I like to swim, learned as a kid. Seems natural to do water sports....Why would someone NOT want to learn?

    OP by being a nonswimmer and unskilled in rescues you may already be paddling past your limits and on a safety margin that is thin to nonexistent. Going solo strips away more of the safety cushion, and from what Jeff posted you don't have the skills to make up for that.

    Most of the time you'll arrive OK and none of this will seem relevant.

    It's that one time that you can't foresee. Even on the tamest river or calmest pond things will happen - weather changes, equipment fails, people get hurt or sick, or separated. What have you got in reserve for coping w. that?

    Answer that truthfully & you'll be able to make the best decision for yourself. Best to you.

    Deborah in Michigan

  • Still pond on a moonlit night:: Heaven!
    I've been kayaking solo for many years---ponds, lakes, sheltered ocean harbors, flat rivers, day, night, March through December. I've been in conditions that made me nervous a few times, but have never had a mishap on the water (ok, just one: 20 feet from shore, caused by a dog). I love solo kayaking. Keys to safe solo kayaking:

    -- Know your ability and don't exceed it.
    -- Carry safety equipment and know how to use it
    -- Don't take chances
    -- Know your route
    -- Leave extra time in case you get lost
    -- Carry an emergency kit containing food, clothing, shelter, and fire on day trips to remote areas. See backpacker's list of "Ten Essentials."
    -- Make sure your kayak can handle the conditions
    -- Don't take chances in cold water.
    -- Learn about wilderness survival

    There are calm, warm days when it would be hard to get in trouble on a small pond. Start small and build your confidence.
  • Common sense............
    -- Last Updated: Apr-03-10 7:03 PM EST --

    A beginner, just getting into kayaking (from her profile), has no self rescue skills, and can't swim(according to a significant other?).

    Asking strangers if they solo; because (in all liklihood), she is interested in soloing, and is seeking support, OR " the answer she wants to hear".
    I'm betting significant other doesn't think she should be soloing.

    Many of the strangers tell her what "they do", but don't really address the central issue.
    The lady can't swim!

    Obvious(I've heard all of them) rationalization; "Lots of people who paddle can't swim; they are ok if they wear their pfd".

    My "personal opinion": Learn to swim before considering soloing, and paddle with a partner until you can swim; even if you always wear a pfd.
    Preferably a partner who knows CPR.

    On a wide, moving water river, or in the middle of a lake, you are not going to "float" to shore.

    You will also not "float" out of harm's way if you are on a moving water river & you capsize "upstream" of a strainer.

    You will not float to shore if you capsize, and injure yourself in deep water.

    If the water is cold; how long do you have before you start experiencing hypothermia? How long will it take you to "float" to shore.

    If your dump bag is in your boat when you capsize, will you need it's contents? Can you get to it if the boat is drifting downstream, or will the boat wait on you to float to it?
    How long will it take you to "float" to your boat, retreive your dump bag & then "float" to shore?

    If someone who is paddling with you capsizes & injures themselves in deep water, will your lack of swimming skills be a positive or negative factor?

    You happen upon a "stranger" who is in the middle of a lake or a river, and needs your assistance.
    Will your help them?
    Will your lack of swimming skills be a positive or negative factor?

    Substitute stranger for a loved one.

    I could be wrong..........
    Ex Lifeguard Instructor
    Ex Water Safey Instructor
    Ex Canoeing Instructor
    Ex Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor

  • Mnay times
    -- Last Updated: Apr-03-10 6:34 PM EST --

    flatwater and whitewater, canoes and kayaks.

    On whitewater, on rivers up to Class III, easy Class IV. Sometimes I was alone in the sense that I had no paddling companions, but was on a popular river with other boaters and/or rafters who may or may not have been able and willing to offer assistance in case of a mishap.

    Other times I was truely alone, the only person paddling the creek or river. I had many, many swims and self rescues but never lost a boat, and haven't been killed yet.

    I usually took a bicycle for a shuttle if I didn't expect to be able to hitch a ride.

    Dumbest was paddling moderately steep creeks in spring flood by my lonesome. Not generally recommended.

  • Ditto
    I never learned to swim when I was a kid. I developed quite a fear of water, and in spite of taking swimming lessons a few times, never made real progress. I discovered an easy opportunity to learn to swim as a young adult, and by that point, I was sensible enough to give it my best shot in spite of my uneasiness around water. This was before I became such an avid paddler, but I did spend a lot of time in small boats, and figured learning to swim only made sense.

    It was one of the smartest things I've ever done, and for the next several years I truly ENJOYED improving my swimming skills (actually, I still do, but I don't improve as rapidly anymore). Not even considering the safety aspect, falling out of your boat, or even running the risk of falling out, is a whole different experience if you are comfortable in the water than if you are not.
  • Options
    ignorant question
    since I know how to swim I have no idea what it feels otherwise but I'm thinking that if I wear a PFD I do not really need to know how to swim because I'm being held up by the pfd. After that realization it's just moving your hands and feet to move along isn't it?
  • On moving water you have to be able
    to effectively body ferry at least to an eddy before something bad comes up..so some swim technique is needed solo.

    Its unfortunately not always just floating feet first down the river before there is a calm pool.

    And if you have a hand occupied with paddle and rope,swimming is a little more difficult.

    Rivers are another game. I feel safer paddling lakes but rivers always have surprises.

    Just as in EMS, you plan for the worst and hope for the best. Paddling is not much different.
  • You're right
    Sorry, I didn't realize she couldn't swim when I replied.

    I guess there's a lot that could be said about swimming. Some disabled people who can't swim do kayak---most likely with an instructor alongside. If you're wearing a PFD you're bouyant, but swimming strokes are still useful/necessary.

    I regret any appearance of encouraging the OP to kayak alone. I would now encourage her to learn to swim before kayaking at all, even with others. A kayaker who can't swim endangers others who may have to come to her rescue.
  • PFD......................
    -- Last Updated: Apr-04-10 8:42 PM EST --


    You have on your pfd, but you can't swim.
    You are kayaking on the ocean; you encounter a rip current.
    Your kayak capsizes; you have no self rescue skills. You get separated from your kayak & your kayak paddle.

    Even with no swimming ability, you are OK; you have on your pfd..........
    You'll just float & dog paddle to shore; you don't need any swimming ability.

    Your kayak & your paddle will also just float to shore.

    It's all good..........


    I don't think so........


    P.S. I am not opposed to solo paddling.

    Have done some myself; even some whitewater solo.I was not a beginning paddler; I wore a rescue pfd with extra flotation, I had excellent swimming skills, I had self rescue skills, and very extensive training. Even with those skills, a pfd & over 35 years of paddling experience; I was/am not drown proof.

  • I'm not sure why
    -- Last Updated: Apr-03-10 9:53 PM EST --

    you are asking the question---I paddled alone when I wanted to go out but didn't have anybody to paddle with---I already had plenty of canoing and white water kayak experience at that point. and I had a roll and self rescue. I also could swim.

    Are you asking if you should paddle alone?--Is Jeffschoaf right--that you don't know how to swim and have never done any self rescue practice? If your question is should you paddle alone I guess my answer is so long as you don't go in water over your waist and the temp of the water is over 70, then you should be ok.

  • Yes, but ...
    Judging by the names of the Original Poster and the poster who reported she can't swim or self rescue (both have SHOAF as last name), I'm going to go out on a limb and figure one reason this question was asked is to settle a difference of opinion.
    Neither of you is going to get a definitive answer here, but you will get some factors to consider, so here is my two cents worth.
    I am female and paddle by myself, but I paddle within my limits -- and judget those limits conservatively when I'm alone.
    I almost never paddle a river alone unless it is one I know well and conditions are benign. Too many things can go wrong in places where you can't get to help easily and others can't get to you or even find you.
    Most of my solo paddling is on a lake where I know the best landing places and where there are usually fishermen around who could help me if necessary -- but I recognize that help may not come quickly, so i seldom paddle solo when the water is cold (that's changed somewhat now that i have a dry suit).
    When I started paddling solo, I stuck close to shore.
    I did not paddle solo until after I had taken lessons, including self-rescue lessons.
  • Not sure what ladies has to do with it
    -- Last Updated: Apr-04-10 11:42 AM EST --

    A few random comments - first off I don't get what the ladies part has to do with anything. Paddling alone is a matter of assessing your paddling, the conditions and your rescue/recovery skills correctly. That's not gender related.

    If gong down a river means white water, we usually see groups going down together. My husband and I have never done WW with less than four.

    I usually paddle with my husband or a local crowd. But I picked up a canoe last fall, and much/most of my time trying to get the strokes down was then and will probably remain alone.

    But - to echo what others above have said - I am a quite competent if not pretty swimmer, especially with a PFD on. And one of the things I will be working on as soon as the water tops 50 degrees on will be figuring out how to equip the canoe and train myself to be able to self-rescue in it.

    Even with the above, there are trips I have refrained from taking because the situation was one where it really required a certain number of paddlers to be safe should something unexpected occur, and we didn't have that minimum. This has happened on the ocean, and even with the people who are there all having solid rescue skills and being dressed for immersion and all that good stuff, the count just didn't meet a safe minimum.
    These were trips where the minimum count was four.

  • nice post
  • comfort in water
    Generally, I would guess that non swimmers are much less comfortable in the water in an emergency. Yes, staying afloat and moving your arms isn't that hard if you're in a pfd. But I'd guess that most non swimmers would be susceptible to panicking if they are unexpectedly in the water, especially if alone.

    Don't do it. You owe it to yourself and your paddling partners to learn to swim. Go the the local YMCA. They'll have everything you need.
  • solo....
    ..........from the start, I'm a shift worker, so I have to go when i can. I tried to get others interested but have struck out.
  • Options
    Not "signifcant other"...
    But I am Kathy's "significant brother!" and primary paddling partner.

    I believe Kathy's question is driven by the fact that she works an odd shift, including many weekends, whereas I work more "normal" 8-5, five days a week. She's not having much (any?) luck finding anyone to paddle with during the week when she's not working (while I'm at work).
  • solo
    My mom told me I was going by myself as little as ten. It was a slow moving river though and not far at all. Before you guys start blasting my parents, they had me paddling my own craft from a young age. I just bought two kayaks for my kids (5 and 6), it is going to be an interesting summer to say the least.
  • canoe self rescue
    People should realize that for normal mortals, self rescue from a capsize in a canoe on a lake or river means swimming the boat to shore, or at least into a good eddy in mid river, from which the boat can be emptied and reentered.

    There are videos and books describing unassisted reentry of a capsized canoe in deep water and a lot of folks figure that they could do that if necessary. It is much more difficult than it appears.

    Even with floatation, if you are successful in reentering a canoe this way, you will now have hundreds of pounds of water in it, and it will be unwieldy, to say the least.

    In a canoe when no help is available, a capsize during a long open traverse over cold water when not wearing a dry suit will likely mean death. I lived in Minnesota for ten years. Typically, every year one or more people drowned within 20 ft of shore. The immediate debilitation resulting from hypothermia just can't be believed until experienced.

    I think it would be difficult for a nonswimmer to get a flooded boat to the shore, PFD or no PFD.
  • Options
    almost always
    I have no friends so I go alone.
  • Talking to me or in general?
    I have a drysuit - two actually since I decided to put new gaskets on the one that has patches on patches, so I could preserve the new one longer.

    I am fully aware of the difficulty of self-rescue in a canoe - I tried for two seasons at camp when I was a kid to do this and was (darn!) the only camper in my cohort who just couldn't pull it off.

    I am resolved to fix this issue as an adult, though I expect it to take some time, and probably float bags.

    WW is another matter, and for the foreseeable future I'll be doing that in a kayak. My strokes aren't great in WW with a double blade, but they are non-existent for a single blade in moving water.
  • started paddling alone
  • Learn to Swim - Teach your kids to swim
    -- Last Updated: Apr-04-10 11:36 AM EST --

    This is a bit off the topic but a few weeks ago two young folks, both ~19 and freshmen at a local college were on a date at Torrey Pines beach, they were playing around with a boogie board in the shallow water. Neither one of them knew how to swim. I had been out surfing very near there a few hours before and gave up because the waves were so small, but as the tide started going out, and a onshore wind came up from the NW, one or both, got knocked off their feet and started to be pulled in a strong rip, the guy fought and yelled for help and threw his boogie board to his girlfriend but she did not recover it and was underwater. THe lifegaurds were leaving for the day but someone flagged them down and they dove in, their street clothes and swam out in the rip and found the girl. She was underwater and not breathing. She is now still in intensive care in a hospital. She was the star tennis player at the college. The guy was swept out and under the waves and his body has not been recovered. His family and friends are of course devasted, and lots of folks have been trying to help find the body here.

    This happened in a spot where the waves can be very violent and dangerous but the day this happened it was almost placid.


  • Options
    Not being able to swim.
    I don't see how that makes a huge difference in deciding if you paddle alone. You would always wear a life jacket alone or single. If you go with a friend and don't wear a jacket, your friend gets to watch you drown. If you go alone and don't wear a jacket and drown, they get to read about you in the paper. Not a lot of great choices there.

    So wear a life jacket and happy paddling. Choose your conditions to give you the best advantage. I saw a man drown last week with a life jacket and hundreds of safety crew everywhere. There are no guarantees in life except that we all shall die.
  • I was speaking in general
    to the orininal spirit of the thread.

    But I would think with your experience you would be able to become competent with a repertoire of single-bladed strokes pretty quickly.

    Not to hijack the thread, but I think floatation is a good idea for canoes used on any moving water, and often stick them in for downriver trips on Class I even at the risk of getting chuckled at.

    I think Tom Foster's DVD "Solo Open Whitewater Canoeing" is a great reference for fine-tuning canoe strokes and fundamental whitewater open boat (or C1) maneuvers.
  • Agree with Sea Dart
    and others here who have posted about swimming. I'm often surprised these days to find how many non-swimmers are paddling in spite of how much emphasis is placed on paddling safety now. It just "does not compute" very well.

    Yes, I know there are exceptions. Verlen Kruger was a non-swimmer. During the voyageur days, when A LOT of paddling was going on, "the companies" wanted non-swimming paddlers because they thought they were more likely to get their pelts home dry and undamaged if the folks in the boats had a "healthy" fear of swimming. But there were unnecessary fatalities - though I guess among voyageurs more died of untreated hernias form portages than by drowning or hypothermia. Still, this is now and that was then and those deaths were unnecessary.

    I learned to swim as a kid at the YMCA before I paddled. I had no Scouting background, but read all the Scout manuals. In those days most paddlers who got any training at all (and most of us figured it out pretty much on our own) got it in the Scouts or in programs modeled on the Scouts. It seemed from the manuals that they taught paddling almost as an advanced stage of swimming - like an extension of a watersports program. You could move on to paddling after you were a good enough swimmer to do a high dive without belly-flopping, swim a mile or two, could side-stroke another swimmer in, and tread water for a few minutes with a weight. Then you could canoe or kayak. Judging by the manuals it seems they spent as much time playing around in swamped canoes as paddling. PFDs were almost an afterthought then, like useful accessories but that they weren't thought of as prerequisites for paddling. Fairly good swimming skills were the prerequisites.

    Seems like the attitude has almost reversed these days. Faith now seems to be largely placed on PFDs, paddle floats, assisted rescues, electronic connection with rescue services, and such. Swimming is the afterthought, and I'm not sure this is really all for the better. Its all good, of course, but perhaps a newcomer these days isn't as impressed as might be wise in the importance of swimming. Many of us who have been doing this for a while don't think of it much because we don't dump all that often.

    A non-swimmer or poor swimmer, even in a PFD, is very likely to be, if not panicked, at least nervous enough after a dump to not think very clearly. (You know who you are.) They may try to swim upstream in a channel or against a rip tide until exhausted. They may swim for a strainer to grab on to and get tangled up. They may try to walk as soon as they can and get into foot entrapment situations. On lakes or the ocean it's probable that swimming conditions aren't exactly ideal or they wouldn't have dumped in the first place. Swimming a distance in waves is not like swimming the same distance in a pool. This is not a good position for a beginner to ever be in and is absolutely dangerous solo, PFD or no. My advise, for what its worth, is to ask yourself if this might be you and, if so, don't solo just yet.

    There is no substitute for being calm in the water and the best way to learn that is by spending time in the water. Like you must in order to learn swimming. Besides, its fun and good exercise.

    Do that and solo paddling might well become one of the greatest joys of your life. The wildlife viewing is always better solo. Its nice to paddle without counting boats or thinking about what kind of mess others in a group might get themselves in. Its nice to pay the price for our own possible mistakes ourselves without considering what the PCers in any crowd think about our choices. Its simpler. (Well, except maybe for the shuttle thing...) The serenity of being on the water alone is unsurpassed in my experience. It hones paddling judgment - you won't let yourself get blown too far down a windy lake twice. You'll know absolutely how large a wave or rapid you're comfortable dealing with. Constantly surrounding ourselves with a "safety net" of other paddlers isn't necessarily always good for our judgment or skills.
    There's a time and place for both solo and group paddling.

  • Started off alone early on
    -- Last Updated: Apr-04-10 2:06 PM EST --

    I still paddle alone most days. If I waited till someone compatible and eager to paddle was available, I'd paddle maybe once a week. That's not enough.

    Gender has nothing to do with the decision. The water and weather don't pick on women more than they do men.

    I agree with the advice to learn to swim first. It's not a matter of whether you will actually swim, so much as it is a fear factor. I've noticed that people who cannot swim are afraid of wet exits even if they've done them already. Having grown up in a region where everybody learned to swim, I was extremely surprised to find out how many here do not know how.

    Play it safe by staying close to shore, being ultraconservative with weather conditions, and not overdoing the mileage. You could join a club and hope they know what they're doing, but sometimes "safety in numbers" is false security. There is no such thing as absolutely safe anyway.

    I normally paddle lakes and reservoirs, and for a short part of the year I paddle in a WW park. Obviously, there is higher risk of something "happening" at the latter, but I don't go during the high-flow season and shoreline is always very close in this narrow creek. I never do float trips; why would you do a float trip alone anyway since you need 2 people and 2 vehicles?

  • Options
    Not trying to sound sarcastic...
    but I was wondering exactly how do people manage to drown even with a PFD on? I've heard people in this forum state that in the winter, wearing just a PFD just makes it easier for people to find your body (death due to hypothermia), but what exactly are the factors that would cause one to drown in spite of having a lifejacket? The only thing I could think of was a really strong undercurrent... anything else?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Unconsciousness
    I thought I read that Type III PFDs (most common type) are not designed to keep a person face-up in the water, merely to float their body.

    If this is wrong, someone please chime in.
  • How to drown in a pfd.............
    -- Last Updated: Apr-04-10 8:40 PM EST --


    Yes, you can drown in a pfd.
    You are more likely to drown while wearing a pfd, "IF" you are a "non" swimmer.
    If you "were" able to swim, you might be able to avoid some of the nasty spots you don't want to go with, or without a pfd.

    Examples: Being swept into a strainer; downed trees in the river, or hanging over & into the river. Most of these can be avoided, even if you are in the water; if you have some swimming skills, and are able to swim aggressively to a safe area.

    Being swept into an area of the river where there is a hydraulic. Some places in the area where I live have low water bridges; some of them have hydraulics on the downstream side. Some of them have large culverts running underneath the low water bridge; those culverts are "often" jammed at some point with fencing, tree limbs, fence posts, trash cans, fishing line & other obstructions.
    Not a fun spot to get swept into due to the lack of ability to aggressively swim to a safe area, before you get swept into the hydraulic, or the culvert.

    Foot entrapment can sometimes lead to a drowning whether you have a pfd or not. Often the current will be too fast for you to keep your head above water when your body is swept downstream(your foot stays entrapped), even wearing a pfd.
    One of the first things a lot of beginners/non swimmers do when they capsize in fast moving water is to stand up; this is an ideal situation for a foot entrapment. Will your non swimming friends be able to get to where you are, and stabilize you long enough to get whatever is entrapped free?

    Some rivers, have boulders that have undercuts, and potholes. A pfd is no gurantee of safe passage or easy exit if you get swept under an undercut boulder, or into a pothole in a boulder garden. With swimming skills, you may be to avoid these hazards by swimming aggressively to an area of safey before you encounter those hazards.

    Most pfd that paddlers wear are "not" designed to keep your face out of the water if you get knocked out, or stunned.

    Pfds are no gurantee that you will not be affected by hypothermia, and possibly drown. Swimming skills and a pfd might have gotten you out of the water & to shore "before" hypothermia occurred.

    You are a swimmer, and are wearing a pfd. You capsize your canoe/kayak. A foot gets entangled in some gear, rope, whatever. The pfd will not guarantee that you will not be tacoed between the boat & a rock, tree, or root wad. A pfd will not guarantee you will not be swept over a water fall while attached to the kayak/canoe. Many waterfalls have hydraulics & strainers at the bottom.Think swimming skills might be handy if you can get loose from your boat? Is your pfd wearing, "non" swimming paddling partner going to swim out to where you are & assist you in getting free before you drown?

    A pfd is no gurantee that you will not be drowned by someone you attempt to assist, if they are extremely panicky & aggressively trying to keep their head above water(perhaps because they "don't" have on a pfd, or can't swim). If you have a pfd on, and have some swimming skills you might be able to stay away out of their reach, and assist them "after" they calm down. Or you might be able to do a reaching assist in deep water; keeping a respectable distance from the panicked non swimmer. You should be wearing a pfd to do this; and if you are going into deep water you should be a swimmer too.
    I have seen a large Labrador Retreiver nearly drown a young child wearing a pfd, in 4 feet of water. The child could not get the dog off of her & the dog was holding her underwater by putting it's front paws on her shoulders. A parent had to pull the dog off the child.

    That's just a few examples of how you can drown with a pfd on.......but have no swimming skills.
    Swimming skills assist you by allowing you to get to shore & out of harm's way, "before" you get into some of the scenario's described above.

    You won't drown because you always paddle on slow moving rivers, close to shore, the weather is great, and you always wear your pfd?
    More drownings occur in that type of scenario/venue than occur on whitewater. That's because most beginners, most non pfd wearing paddlers, most non swimming paddlers go paddling/floating........on what they think are the "safe" rivers.

    Again, those are "just a few" examples.
    Very few.


  • Options
    Wow Thebob.com
    That's quite a list of ways to drown in spite of wearing a PFD... too many people (myself included, at times!) put too much faith in a PFD, and skimp on attention to safety details... thanks for sobering us up with that info.

  • in winter
    The remarks about PFDs making your body easier to find in winter probably refers to the fact that in very cold water, people without appropriate immersion wear generally lose their ability to swim or get themselves back in a boat in minutes. So wearing a PFD will just float your useless body longer if you weren't dressed for the swim. It won't save you from the killer - cold water.
  • In rough water
    It is very common to drown in whitewater being pinned in your boat or upside down being flushed against a strainer, bridge abutment etc. You can be recirculated in a hydraulic or keeper hole and never be able to get air that is free of water and spray to breath.

    In large ocean waves you can be held down in a breaking wave longer than you can hold your breath. You can also aspirate spray that will cause your trachea to close off and your lungs to fill with fluid, so you can drown while still floating on the surface .
  • Options
    Kathy, I was paddling solo soon after buying a kayak. It was on one solo fishing trip the tide and wind turned on me and on reaching shore, I vowed to get professional lessons.

    This is the kind of thing where if you have to ask, you're not ready most likely. Then again, if your partners have to rescue and can't they might as well be on Mars. Paddling is kind of solo all the time. Except when it's not of course. Learn to swim, then never swim unless you want to. : ) also, in my case, I was not ready to be where I was alone, but I was too dumb to know it. When you are self sufficient you will know, but instruction will let you know the criteria to judge by and let you prove to yourself first hand that you have the skills and knowledge and judgment. It does not matter if others jump off a cliff, they are not you.
  • Good examples, but ...
    Thanks for all the examples of how to die even while wearing a PFD. Now I'll never get on the water again. Just kidding (but good thing my Mom doesn't read this). Your examples do provide plenty of food for thought. But I also want to point out that in many of the examples you gave, a swimmer with a PFD could/would be susceptible to drowning, too.
  • Gender can be an issue
    As a woman, I appreciate all of you who said gender isn't an issue when it comes to deciding whether to paddle alone. And I agree, when it comes to being safe boating, the issue is skill, not gender. However, being safe from crime can be a gender issue when alone, depending on where you are. For example, be aware of whether your take out location is also a party spot. Do you want to get to the end of your paddle alone and have a bunch of drunken yahoos there? At least if they're partying at the put-in, you could just change locations. But, at the end of the day, your options are limited. Alone, in a group, male or female, you should be aware of the potential for crime. But a single female may be taking a bigger risk.
  • Agree with that part
    I think I started this. I was talking about the whether being on the water is safe based on information from the paddler here and in an earlier thread where she seemed to say that at this point in time she had not worked on rescues. Maybe the not swimming thing was in there too - in any case it isn't new information that basic water survival skills may need some work.

    What you are talking about is more about whether access to the water is safe, since land is where you are most likely to run into unpleasant two-legged wildlife. That is, I agree, an issue that is more of a problem for women than men. But then again, the same rules apply at boat launches or in remote places in the woods as in the most urban environment. If a female is alone and crosses paths with bad actors with no one around, it can go bad very fast.
  • Hesitant partner?
    In response to your last, Jeff, Kathy and I have emailed back and forth a couple times - discussing the possibility of paddling together, but I have not followed up.

    The reason? First, I am concerned that Kathy cannot swim, and even with a PFD, that gives me great concern as a once-Red Cross certified lifeguard. I have not met her and don't know her weight in relation to my strength if a rescue situation were to develop . . . and she has stated she has no rescue skills. She has a 14' Manta Ray, while mine's a 12" and those boats are heavy when considered from a rescue standpoint. Finally, I don't know her response to water in a dunking situation - and possibly she doesn't either.

    In short, I am very impressed with Kathy's dedication to paddling, and I would not hesitate to join her for a paddle, if she could swim and had some rescue knowledge, but at this point,I would feel more responsibility than I feel ready to take on, given her present situation. There have been some great posts on this situation, with good advice. I hope she follows it.

    Meanwhile, I am in the process of taking some training to further develop my paddling skills and learn some on-water leadership skills. Maybe some day, we'll meet in the middle and get to go paddling!
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