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Floating by yourself



  • Poster asked for examples...........
    -- Last Updated: Apr-05-10 12:54 PM EST --

    JDizz asked for examples of how a person wearing a pfd could possibly drown. I gave him some, and can give him, or you more if necessary.

    A person wearing a pfd, with the ability to swim, knowing how & when to swim "aggressively",who has some self rescue skills training will dramatically "decrease" the possibility they will NOT get themselves into many life threatening situations.
    They typically will be less likely to panic, less likely to put themselves into dangerous situations, have more confidence in their ability to help themselves, and be more aware of how to assist fellow paddlers. They will be aware of techniques used to assist them in dealing with some problems such as strainers, hydraulics, etc. There are techniques that may assist you; if you know what they are. Having the ability to "swim aggressively" is one of those techniques.

    Ask yourself this, "Do you want someone who wears a pfd, someone who can swim & who can swim aggressively when necessary; one who has some training assisting you "when you really need help"?

    Or do you prefer to get assistance from a non pfd wearing, non swimmer, who has no training?
    Where do you expect these people will be, and what do you expect them to be doing in an emergency situation "in the water".
    They will probably be on shore watching; not in the water assisting you. Or they will be the victim in the water, hollering for help.
    It is very unlikely that they will be doing things which they have no ability, skills, education, or training to do.

    Newspaper reporters love drowning victims & interviewing seemingly helpless bystanders; they make good video copy for the News at 8.

    I'm not talking about gender issues, or who might jump you at the takeout.

    The "initial issue" was soloing; without the ability to swim, and having no self rescue skills.


  • Really excellent post, Bob.
    Posts like yours contribute to saving lives. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge!
  • Another way to drown in a PFD...
    In "Essentials of Sea Survival"(great book!), there are references to people floating upright in type 1 PFDs who slowly drowned by inhaling spray and splash in extended high-wind conditions.
  • Options
    ^ you are right
    Type III (& for that matter Type V) PFDs do *not* keep the swimmer's face out of water. That requires consciousness & positive effort on the part of the swimmer.

    Type I (much bulkier & not suited for paddling motion)
    will keep an unconscious person's face out of the water.
  • Options
    no paddling partner options?
    North Carolina is a paddler's paradise. There are meetup groups & yahoo groups which are paddling-centric. Adventure groups which include kayaking. Paddling clubs which can help her w. paddling skills as most offer skill sessions, esp. early in season.

    NC Outfitters who offer classes before guided trips. She can learn, try different boats, and paddle new venues. Someday she might want to do protected ocean paddling, or lakes. A great outfitter/guide can expand her paddling horizon beyond the usual river stretch while serving as support and backup as she learns.

    And of course learn to swim.

    The case for not paddling solo is pretty well made. As pointed out by a few capable women paddlersin the thread, it is not a "ladies" issue, it is a skills and judgement issue.

    As to either - She's not ready, but she can get ready if she is as dedicated to paddling as it seems. It'll be fun and open up so many more avenues to get on the water.
  • Floating does not equal propulsion
    A PFD only keeps your body at the surface of the water. It will not get you where you need to go. For that, you must swim.

    8 years ago I had to tow a paddler in the water who passively floated (wearing his PFD) as his boat blew away.He didn't even try to swim to his boat, because he didn't know what to do! He had been on many WW rafting trips where he and his friends relied on the current and lots of helping hands to yank someone out.

    If you've never had to pull a swimmer behind your boat, try it on a warm day. Guaranteed it'll make you preach swimming lessons.
  • The great equalizer
    The crime aspect applies whether it's kayaking or anything else.

    If a place is that hinky, I won't go.

    If there are no alternatives, you might consider firearms training and a concealed-carry permit.
  • As one who solos often...
    -- Last Updated: Apr-05-10 1:16 PM EST --

    I've been watching this thread with interest.

    Lot's of good comments here that should cause someone to think about the risks they face.

    Because of my (lack of) work schedule, most of my outdoor activities over the last 22 years have been solo. If not for that, my outdoor life would be extremely limited.

    Solo adventures require a different mindset than group trips. You must practice consistently good judgment and preparation or you are setting yourself up for disaster.

    Preparation, as has been discussed here, includes skills that can reasonably be expected to be put to use in the respective activity (i.e. rope handling/mountaineering, swimming/paddling, etc). There is plenty of information available these days to learn "the ropes" before advancing solo into wild adventures, so there is no excuse for learning the basics "the hard way", and especially for not even knowing for sure what the basics are.

    Preparation also includes mental training and decision making that prepares you to accept the limits you will face gracefully. You must be able to identify and back away from those challenges that are unreasonable for you to face alone at your experience level.

    I am a proponent of solo adventuring for those that have done "the homework" and are physically capable. Although I do like shared adventures, there is nothing like experiencing the wild on your own. I have learned to love it deeply.

    However....If a person has to ask others "should I go solo..." the answer is probably no - or at least, not yet. This is one of those personal things you should be able to answer definitively (and honestly) for yourself. If you don't know the answer, the answer (IMO) is "no".

    This is as simple as I can put it....Know yourself, know the challenge, then decide for yourself.

  • Steve................
    Very well stated opinions..........

    Many paddlers, no matter what their skill level, benefit from making well reasoned decisions, and listening to their "inner voice".

    Some call that common sense.

  • Options
    fearless over 40
    i almost always go on my own. if the water is cold, i wear a wetsuit; i tell my family that if i show up dead on the river without a life jacket to look at my son in law who is probably trying to get my life insurance. i guess my point is, solo is fine, solo stupid is dead. i don't go beyond my skill level - yet i've seen some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises on the lake, by myself, that i'd have missed had i insisted upon company. be fearless, but don't be stupid. that is the trick from this solo woman kayaker.
  • if you solo
    -- Last Updated: Apr-05-10 10:07 PM EST --

    everyone might feel better if you carry a PLB or SPOT.

    PLB is for you. SPOT has a PLB function but I find it benefits the family back at home and reassures them that all is well.

    Nevertheless using SPOT has its own share of responsibilities and onuses on you the tripper.

    It took me a while to realize that while I was fine on my 70 days a year of solo, the family did not know that. And in that respect I was really being selfish.

    Some communication with them at periodic intervals during the trip really helped be it SAT phone or SPOT.

  • Not sure it's worth it for the OP
    My impression is that the OP wants to do short day paddles on her own, for a few hours. A PLB or Spot isn't going to help her significantly, IMO, anymore than a float plan would. If she needs help, she'll need it either immediately (stuck in a strainer, bonked on the head, etc), or within a day (lost boat, stranded above rapids, broken limb, etc). Nothing's going to bring help immediately, and a float plan for a 4 hour trip will bring help an hour or two after your stated return time.

    For her type of outings, and her skill level, I think a PLB or Spot might be more of a liability than an aid, as it could simply provide a false sense of security. Also, it could be considered an irresponsible use of rescue resources for someone who is unqualified to go out alone but bring a signalling device, with the idea that even though they lack skills they'll just push a button if they need "saved". (To be clear, I'm not saying this is something that the OP would do. I'm speaking in general terms - suggesting that perhaps novice paddlers should not be encouraged to get electronic signalling devices, when they are concerned that they might not have the skills to do a trip on their own.)
  • started out alone and did so for
    6 years...now i have gotten into sea kayaking i have found some gals that are as obsessed as i, we do skills and fun stuff to...but i still like to go alone. i now have the best of both worlds.amen!
  • true
    the best rescue device is your own head.

    No gizmo can substitute and there might be a tendency for novice soloists to rely on them.
  • Maiden voyage
    First time I kayaked I was alone. It was at the boat club where my sailboat was so there were people around. I'd paddled canoe for years before that and soloed a lot. I didn't really go far the first time because the wind was kicking up and I was afraid of shipping water. Soon thereafter I got a skirt.
  • Options
    kayaking alone
    First and foremost....WOW. Thanks for all the responses. Now to address some things. First Jeff Shoaf is my brother and so far the one I paddle with (when I can get him to go). We took a couple of beginners lessons. One on a lake and the other on the Dan River. Now he brought up the issue of me not swimming. Last year when we started kayaking I told him I wouldn't do it without a PFD. So we both always wear our PFD's. For those of you that don't know, we went to Roatan off the coast of the Honduras's in March. This was to be a kayaking, snorkeling, shooting pictures trip. We both took our PFD's since we felt we'd be more comfortable in our own. Ended up Jeff couldn't snorkel, he couldn't keep his face in the water. I could snorkel and did so a couple of times. I always had my PFD on. I can float and swim on my back. I wouldn't want to do either for a long distance. I took swimming lessons years ago when I was in my 20's. I have carpal tunnel in both hands all the way up my arms and it can affect my neck. Because of this my arms aren't as strong as they use to be. As far as self rescue, I flipped out and while trying to get back in my SOT flipped out a couple more times. Why, because Jeff, my brother, was trying to tell me how to do it instead of being still and letting me get my wits back. I was laughing at myself and the water was knee deep or just a little above my knees. I bought my SOT which is 14 ft long and yes it is heavy. But its also very stable, tracks well and is manuverable. I always have my cell phone in a dry bag, plus water, snacks and a sandwich and yes, I always have a first aid kit consisting of hand warmers, bandaids, a heat sheet to wrap up in or use as a tent,a couple of different things to start a fire if needed, things like that. I also have a couple of carabingers and some kind of rope. None of this means that I can't drown. I've been trained as a first responder at my job. I'm not usually the one that panics when something goes wrong. I stay calm until everything is over, give it an hour or 2 and then maybe I fall apart. Why am I telling you all of this? Its simple all of you were kind enough to answer. Yes, I have thought about kayaking on my own. I work a rotating schedule. Out of six weeks I'm really only off a total of two complete weekends. I've been doing this job for 15 years and its always been hard to find anybody to do anything with. I'm 50 years old and still get lectures from my parents about the places I go alone....the mountains, riding around out in the country side, etc. I've also taken some plane trips by myself. Rarely have I had any problems. Once again, I'm not saying I won't/ can't have problems. I'm known as being a very dependable, responsible person. Jeff is a super smart computer nerd. I don't want to jinx either of us but I think he thought he was going to have a lot easier time learning to kayak than me. He does all this research bought DVD's and yet I'm the one that has to catch his kayak when he flips out all the time. He acts like I'm not aware of my surroundings and I don't pay attention. WELL I AM AWARE AND I DO PAY ATTENTION. The reason I flipped out that time was because I was coming through a small rapid, was going to turn around to make sure he got through it. I turned a little too soon and flipped out. I am out and about all the time. I've learned to follow my instincts about a lot of things. I'm grateful Jeff cares for me and I've said it before I think the world of him. We live in NC, its been in the mid to high 80's and I want to go kayaking. I like going down the Dan River. Its a small river but its like any river in that it can hide things. The river is about a 15 to 20 minute trip from mine or Jeff's house. I went there last Thursday to check the water temperature and it was cool. If I go kayaking I was planning on wearing my wetsuit and of course my PFD. I was going to get the guys at the Dan River Company to transport me & my yak back to my car when I got through. I'm not going to say I won't ever go by myself. But I'm able to do things in the middle of the week because of my work schedule and it beats the heck out of fighting the weekend crowds. I also plan on letting more than one person know what I'll be doing and where I'll be doing it.

    I'm not trying to add salt to an open wound but each time we have kayaked Jeff has flipped out. He even flipped out in the ocean when we were in Roatan. Thank goodness we were in between the island and the the reef. Because of this the water wasn't rough. I'm used to my very stable, steady SOT. In Roatan we were in sit ins, long sit ins. I did fine but I still like my SOT better. My thought is when the same thing keeps happening to me its because of something I've done. I'd like to understand why Jeff always flips out. Is he manuvering wrong, not paying attention, what? I'd like to join a paddling club so we both could learn and gain some knowledge and experience from others. Maybe Jeff could find someone to show him how to stay in the kayak. I'm not trying to be a smart aleck or be ugly by saying that. I just don't want there to be that one time when he flips out and something awful happens.

    I hope I'm not coming off as overly confident. Someone told me years ago that 98% of the "what if's" never happen and the 2% that do you either live through them or die. I'm not trying to risk dying. I have a strong belief that nobody dies before their time. I don't want Jeff to quit caring about me. I do want him to start caring more about himself....in all parts of his life. I've worried about him a lot the last couple of years. He's let his health go and I don't want him ending up like some (or one) of our relatives. I want him to wake up and truly enjoy life...not in front of the TV. That's not life.

    Once again thank all of you and of course I'll let you know if or when I decide to paddle alone. It won't be without lots of thinking and planning and preparing.

  • It was pretty clear from the get go
    that you two had some sort of personal relationship and really cared for each other's well being.

    I think it is up to you two to together make parameters for any solo float and make realistic plans for when things go wrong.

    You each want each other to fly so work on that.
  • Gender diff's maybe
    -- Last Updated: Apr-07-10 12:28 AM EST --

    Women tend to be more conservative, guys not infrequently are more the try it and if I don't die it must be ok attitude. As a result, Jeff may be edging his boat more boldly than you are or leaning out more over the boat. If he hasn't got some time learning how to balance over that edge, or brace to prevent the capsize, he'll go over a good bit with that.

    This is a good thing as long as it is associated with learning what I mentioned above.

    It also sounds like there may be some slightly moving water involved, which also means learning how water acts on the boat so that you edge in the correct direction. Edging wrong will capsize you in a New York minute, even in the south. That was probably what happened when you flipped turning to make sure Jeff made it thru OK. You probably gave the current the upstream edge instead of turning on the downstream edge, which is a guaranteed capsize in current.

    In sum, capsizing in and of itself is not a bad thing. Continuing to capsize because of failure to learn the skills above is also not necessarily awful, though over time that gets to be an annoyingly soggy experience.

    Your responses here and in the older thread tend to get into comparisons of your own and your brother's water experiences that are interesting, but really have no bearing on what you need to do to paddle safely. It's just diversion. You've said you know you need some skills - just go get them. Your brother can make his own choice.

  • Options
    Ckc symposium
    K: there's a symposium coming up on Jordan Lake, perhaps an opportunity? Not sure how far it is for you or if you'd be interested, but a bunch of great folks and a time to share and teach.

  • Options
    Re: Kayaking alone
    Just a few responses...

    First, I'm a computer geek, not a computer nerd! ;)

    I've chronicled my capsizing condition here in other threads, so I don't know why that would be rubbing salt in an open wound. And it has nothing to do with whether anyone else should kayak alone or not. And I'm perfectly willing to detail the conditions and aftermath of my capsize in the ocean while we were at Roatan if any one is interested; it may be of interest since Michael Grey thinks we inadvertantly invented an new assisted rescue to get me back in my kayak!

    The only time I backed out of a planned kayaking trip was when I was feeling light headed and dizzy; seems to me that that's a good reason to not engage in an activity that places a premium on keeping your balance!

    Kathy denies my assertion that she doesn't always pay attention to what she's doing, and then goes on to relate that her one capsize was the result of trying to watch out for me... Hmmm... Paying attention to someone else and capsizing...

    And finally, the one time Kathy capsized, she did not self-rescue. I came up beside her in my kayak and held hers steady so that she could re-board after she failed to do it several times w/o any help. She was in waist deep water and I'm confident that she could have easily reached the river bank to get back on her SOT, but that may not always be the situation.
  • Options
    Long before I should have.
    I started out paddling alone and then a club began.
    It is more fun to paddle with friends but I have always enjoyed the solitude.
    There are times I go out in conditions where I would not take (or go with) company.
  • Suggest you lose the family focus
    -- Last Updated: Apr-07-10 11:44 AM EST --

    You are doing, at least in writing here, the same thing as Kathy. Talking about who may have done what wrong on the water rather than getting some training to fix it.

    It's entertaining for some, but I have the same advice for you as your sister. Forget about that irrelevant stuff and get some instruction.

    FWIW, you two are sounding a lot like a cranky old married couple. For the sake of your relationship, you may want to be in separate instruction groups so this kind of thing doesn't happen after every class.

  • LOL
    I was about to say "Get a room, you two!" Evidently, being middle-aged doesn't cure siblings from bickering with each other ;-)

    Seriously, take some lessons, and then go have fun!
  • To consider....
    East Coast Canoe & Kayak Festival

    Carolina Kayak Club Kayaking Symposium

  • Options
    Regardless of the bickering...
    and he said she said. It sounds like you both are at least competent. Kathy has been in the water a few times and seem confident that she won't get into trouble.

    She says she knows how to swim rudimentarily, and she doesn't panic and is a trained disaster responder.

    As someone who has swam all their life, I can tell you there is a big difference between rudimentary swimming and advanced swimming and advanced underwater operation.

    If you get stuck in a situation that requires advanced water skills, you'll definately need them. I am reminded of a time when I went ocean kayaking the first time (with many years of flat water canoeing experience under my belt). I was kayaking in the mangrove canals north of key largo, and the tide was coming in or going out. I went where the water was pinched to 10ft and so the water was rushing through, there were three pilings in place to keep motorized boats out of this area. Since it was my first kayak experience in swift waters I hadn't realized the kayak could so easily turn and get pinned on the piling. And pinned hard it got flipped sideway... with me in the kayak facing the oncoming water. I had to pull myself out of the kayak, while pinned in the kayak that was pinned to the pilings, brace my feet on the one of the pilings and break the kayak free, which involved dragging it longways until the bow or stern was free. When the kayak broke free I got a nice long and deep gash on my leg from the barnacles, and drifted down the canal with the kayak which was full of water. I had to dump some of the water out of the kayak while I was in the water before I could get back in it.

    I couldn't have done any of that, and may not have survived if I wasn't both a very strong swimmer skills-wise, a very strong muscularly. That kayak was pinned hard. I was also very confident in myself in that situation, and my ability to get myself and that kayak off the piling in the rushing water.

    Kathy, I feel confident about your abilities, but get swimming lessons and practice hard until you are not only a capable surface swimmer but an advanced swimmer able to do thing in and under the water that other people cannot do. It's a really important set of survival skills to have, especially if you are going to be on the water, and even more especially important if you are going to be in moving water (rivers, oceans, canals, etc.)


  • you go girl
    Heck yeah. Have been paddling solo for 99% of the time since I got into paddling approx 9yrs ago. It is very peaceful; besides you can do/go where you want & not have to be bothered w/others wants/needs. Get out there & enjoy! With time your confidence will build & it will be second nature to you.
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