2 kayakers rescued in Long Island Sound

2 kayakers were rescued off Fairfield CT a few days ago when the wind capsized them and then swept their boats away. They had drysuits and life jackets, but one guy’s drysuit was not watertight and he was hypothermic. There was a small craft advisory at the time.

1 Like

At least they were partially prepared.

1 Like

If you’re going out in a kayak on Long Island Sound in January in high winds, I assume you’re either a total idiot or a thrill seeker. Since they had dry suits, I’m assuming they’re at least somewhat experienced thrill seekers who like challenging conditions. But I guess it was more than they counted on.


It’s so ez to attribute an accident reported with three sentences on a news site to idiocy, poor judgment or thrill seeking isn’t it?

This is a theme I’ve noticed here over the last several months: whenever an accident occurs it means the people involved made poor choices, were unprepared or ill equipped. I hope in real life when dealing face to face with others we are not so quick to pass judgment. Often news reports contain preliminary or incomplete information and we can’t begin to know the fine details of what happened. Even experienced people in any sporting discipline get into sticky situations .


I truly did not mean it that way. I’m a beginner paddler myself, so to me the idea of going out on a large body of water in the dead of winter, during a high wind warning, is scary. Why would someone want to do that? To me it seems like either they like the difficult conditions and the challenge (that’s what I mean by thrill seeker, I don’t consider that a bad thing – and most people in this category would in fact be pretty experienced, but of course conditions can get too be too much even for an expert) or they just weren’t thinking.

I apologize, I forget how difficult it is to convey a nuanced meaning in writing. I don’t really think I should be posting on this board.

1 Like

It’s one thing to go out during a Small Craft Advisory to take advantage of the waves and do some kayak surfing, staying close to shore, but to go out on open water in January during an SMA? That’s just plain stupid and irresponsible. If they were smart enough to dress properly, they should have known better. Fortunately, this was just a learning experience and they’ll live to paddle again, hopefully wiser for the experience.


Agree with narrby and nystrom.

If you’re looking for a fun time in the waves, the fall and winter offer the best paddling. If you are in a dry suit, PFD, and have a comm device, you’re pretty well prepared gear wise. That said, clearly a leash would have helped as they lost their boats.
Really they failed the self assessment skills/conditions test before launch. Their hearts were willing but their balance, brace, or remount was weak. With better recovery skills this would never make the news. Or these forums. :slight_smile:

So PSA to everyone. Practice your recovery skills or risk the pnet peanut gallery’s scorn! We’re like MST3K but not funny.


Judgement judgement judgement. MCImes has it.

There are paddlers on this board who could have handled the conditions. There are paddlers on this board who, if capsized, were ready with a roll or a deep brace. Or would have had a good shot at hanging onto their boat while the other paddler sorted out how to deal with the situation.

These two ended up hanging off a buoy with their boats heck only knows where. They were dressed well and had some preparation. But their judgement of their own skill at avoiding or handling incidents in those conditions was lacking.


Ditto Celia & MCImes. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong in paddling in such conditions. The issues are (1) accurate self-assessment of one’s skills; (2) sufficient strength/skill/redundancy in the paddling party as a whole; (3) recognizing the need for a lower risk threshold in one set of parameters if you’re going to accept higher risk in another set.

In this case, high winds and cold water temps were two “advanced” or high risk parameters, and they needed to accept risk reductions elsewhere to compensate. Examples would have been–not setting out without a bigger party (more than 2) of skilled paddlers, staying close in shore, picking a more sheltered venue to start with, etc. They don’t get an “F” (Full Darwin Award) , but this rates a “D”.


“With better recovery skills this would never make the news.”
This topic always interests me. I mostly think it’s true insofar as when you really develop recovery skills, it makes you less likely to swim out of your boat. But when I think about those times when I’ve felt I’m pushing the limits of my skills, it feels something like walking on an elevated tightrope. Once you slip up, you have to use a new way to get to the end, you have to climb out of the net, because what you were just doing is now out of your grasp. It seems that’s what may have happened here.
While I’m still paddling along, it’s as good as it’s going to get. I have an empty kayak. I at least have the confidence that I’m still upright so far. Once in the drink in an intimidating situation, everything tends to get more difficult, to sap more energy. It literally simply takes more skill and energy than staying in your kayak in the first place. It’s not necessarily impossible, but if you felt challenged before the capsize, the storm has just begun. You personally now have to find a way to gain thoughtful confidence, and take controlled assertive action. If you have the skills, and slipped up, you can recover. If you didn’t have the skills, you still won’t.
I have several experiences where getting the person back into their kayak simply results in another capsize momentarily. And yes, this is after remaining rafted up until the person says they are ready to continue on their own.
I like the three-by-sea recommendation. I know if a person’s balance starts to escape them out there, there is someone to raft up for as long as it takes, which could be long, and there is someone to tow until the person is back within their ability to continue unassisted.

I’m very happy these 2 were prepared enough to survive what they encountered. The good news is that they live near the coast. Surf zones are a great way to build open water skills. You can go from being capsized by the push of a wave of a certain size, to learning to survive the push of similar waves without capsizing, to learning to relax and let the wave push you, to actually harnessing the push of the wave and meaningfully controlling where you go once being pushed. I think these are all recognizable stages of skill development. And if you haven’t reached the meaningful control stage, then it’s best to continue finding those challenges in a controlled environment where your escape from “beyond your ability” is carefully planned.

I’d argue for at least a D grade by this logic -
F=Death + EMS rescue
D- =Hospital + EMS rescue
D+ =No hospital + EMS Rescue
C=Injury or significant property damage/loss + Non EMS assisted rescue
B=minor injury or loss + self rescue
A=no injury or loss, self rescue
A+= Did it with style in a clutch moment

fair rescue scale?

Edit - meant D! oops

Well, I always found A, B, & C to be “acceptable”–spanning excellent to mediocre, and F is a full fail. D is not really acceptable but it’s not full stop. This pair were hanging on to a navigation can in water temps that were in the mid-30’s F. Given the size & configuration of the can, they had to be largely immersed while they waited for help. They were completely dependent on a prompt external rescue, and had one or the other lost his grip on the can, he could easily have been lost, PFD and drysuit notwithstanding. The fact that one was hospitalized for “exposure” (presumably meaning hypothermia) means that loss of grip was coming. I think it is a bit beyond the realm of “You did OK, but here’s how to improve…”

What other kinds of accidents are there other than human error? I guess there is “meteorite falls through roof, hits couch surfer”. But aside from those, most are human error of some kind. That’s OK, we’re human. Many accidents are going to seem careless in hindsight, especially by others.

Well, there are equipment failure accidents, or unforeseen conditions, but at the start, not only in hindsight, this was a bad idea. - just my opinion

But most of those are human error too…failure to check the drysuit gasket, for example. Manufacturers aren’t perfect but I haven’t heard of too many accidents caused by defectively made gear.

I would love to know how these two separated from their boats like this. I go to college in Fairfield and paddle regularly on the sound year round. Can’t say I’ve ever found waves more than 1.5 - 2 feet in the area even with good winds, at least within a mile of shore. Usually to the only bad conditions are waves breaking on reefs which are easy to avoid, and even those aren’t too bad. For them to both capsize I imagine one of them capsizing first and the other capsizing from a failed assisted rescue? If so some serious basic skills were lacking. In high winds I think its good practice to attach your tow rope to your boat, just in case, it convenient and makes separation from boat highly unlikely.

ok, just answering your question (What other kinds of accidents are there other than human error?)
my drysuit new had a leaky gasket - luckily i tested it by taking a swim in it first. another kayaker i know had a rudder mechanism come apart on his 3rd time out. thats why the “shakedown cruise” tradition was developed.

Perhaps rescue shouldn’t be a profession. Just let those (supposedly) unprepared folks die and say they should have been more prepared.

Yes, that is more or less what I am hearing. You may inform the rescue personnel they are being transferred to the sea sense and self-rescue education department :roll_eyes:

Stuff happens. We are doing our best to make good decisions and sometimes stuff happens. That’s why the rescue workers have a job.

They were unprepared in terms of skills. There are results that pretty much scream that and this was one.

The concern of people here - and l find it odd that anyone could be cavalier about this - is that they were a hairs breadth away from one or both of them being found as bodies. Not somewhat embarrassed paddlers hanging off a buoy. Once a human head is bobbing in those conditions in the Sound, it is not even a 50% chance rescue folks can find them without something like a locator beacon.

Why it matters to hang onto the boat. The visibility greatly improves the odds of being seen.

You have the luxury of not having to think about how close these two came to being statistics. Betcha they were not feeling as casual.