A cautionary tale for newbies

Not my decision, No I don’t know what you’re referring to as far as “open water” goes. Since canoes are used on the Great Lakes on a regular basis and Tahoe is clearly smaller than most of those. I don’t know what her future plans are going to be or if she’ll ever go kayaking or boating again.
I do know that I will not be silent if there’s somebody in a river running kayak on a huge lake that could potentially cause the same issues.
The fact of the matter is adults are adults people are people and they’re going to do what they’re gonna do. If I can prevent something great if I can impart knowledge great and if I can rescue them out of their situation…great

[quote=“rstevens15, post:20, topic:104354”]
As long as she understands that an open canoe would probably be an even worse choice for big open water.
[/quote]Keyword in this case being “she”. I, and people I paddle with regularly are often found on large lakes with rough conditions in open canoes. But we do know when enough is enough for conditions and abilities.


There was no “leader”, which is why I stepped in to have Pre-trip meetings about the weather as well as going on a shakedown trip because I happen to be more safety conscious than most people


About the control thing. For a few years a handful of us were paddling Lake George well into the winter. We had one rule, no one could paddle those trips with us w/o a dry suit.
We should have gotten a commission from Kokatat.


I am not a fan of ocean kayaks and I’m not a fan of going out into the ocean I live in the San Francisco Bay area where people die every day underestimating the water or underestimating the terrain both take people out on a regular basis. We had a couple who were lost in the Point Reyes area for almost a week, Just because they went off trail to see the full moon.
If I am going to go out anywhere with anyone I’m gonna be sure I know my equipment I know my equipment is in good working condition I have a way to signal for help I have a way to protect myself from as many issues as me crop up I’m gonna be the one carrying the medical first aid kit and have the knowledge on how to use it.
The unknown factor in safety usually comes from another person, My friend was in a boat she was comfortable using in conditions she had historically paddled in and I don’t know those conditions, She clearly underestimated the recovery in her hand and how the wind which she knew was going to come up was going to impact her boat which had a higher side to it because it’s a river run or it’s not a recreational kayak I think it’s less than 10 feet long. We learned a lot from that experience especially myself and I am grateful nothing happened as a result of my decision to go grab her and pull her in and I’m glad nothing happened that was negative in anyway shape or form.
IMHO This was a positive experience because nobody got hurt we all ended up being safe we all ended up being able to talk about it and we altered our behavior the next day. We decided because of her boat was so high on the side and the wind was going to continue being an issue that we would paddle closer to the shore which would keep us out of the wind, Bingo one problem solved second issue was the weakness in her hand which really concerned me a lot. So I said to her look I know your hand is an issue for you it’s clear to me you had not the strength to pull against the wind the day before so I’m gonna put it out there if you get tired or fatigued in any way shape or form let me know because I’m gonna be right there with you and I don’t mind towing you even with all my gear on board.
The trip ended up being an odd one for so many reasons that were out of the scope of this story.
I shared the story because it shows that if you have just one person paying attention to the specific details regarding Weather conditions water conditions equipment conditions and the condition of the paddler, And that person is reassessing those conditions on a regular basis during the trip, emergencies can be avoided, heartbreak can be avoided.
I also shared the story because I wanted people to understand how quickly things can go bad, Like another reply or said that was paddling down a river in Oregon just a couple of paddle strokes would’ve made the biggest difference. Being hyper aware of your surroundings and those of your paddle mates Could mean the difference between tragedy or Going out for a great dinner afterwards and having wonderful stories.
I love the water I love to tide pool I love to serve I love to swim I love to snorkel and I absolutely love paddling. I also have the upmost respect for the water and what it can do I have seen people drown, I’ve seen people come close to drowning, I have seen little kids get snatched by an undertow in a beautiful day on a calm beach and these are not situations I want to relive.
Have fun enjoy the water be prepared be kind to each other and look out for your fellow man as much as you’re gonna look out for your own self

I agree in part, This was not my trip, this was not something I organized, this was something I was invited to participate in. However due to time constraints I didn’t have the time to triple check every single person‘s abilities or their boat or anything like that and it was not my job to do that, That I insisted on a shake out cruise was met with “yeah whatever”, “Why are you being so concerned”.
That I actually got people to participate in that was pretty much like pulling teeth.
My friends own their boats, And have varying degrees of experience on the water. This is why I insisted upon having to shake out paddle as well as having a sit down discussion about what I knew about the terrain the weather and the conditions and how they can change so fast up at Lake Tahoe.
Could I have done more? I doubt it.
This is where you have to prepare for the lowest common denominator and that is usually a human being over confident in their abilities or dismissive of possible conditions.
I will always over prepare and be prepared for emergencies that’s just who I am.

Ppine - thank you for sharing your experience it is exactly this type of experience that proves the need for check out cruises and meetings on safety and conditions before boats even touch the waters.
Thank goodness you had the experience that you did. Oregon and Washington have really dramatic and beautiful places to paddle, And it scares me to know how many people just rent these kayaks and pop them in the water and takeoff not getting any training whatsoever about possible condition changes during their pedal people just hand out lifevests and that’s good to go.
Where I live and many places along the Pacific Northwest all the way down to Central California conditions can change within one hour you can go from a 90° beautiful sunny day and flat waters to fog, overcast, high winds and white caps and temperature drops of over 40°in that one hour.
I am so thankful for my early childhood training on sailing, surfing, snorkeling, All mostly in San Francisco bay or in open ocean. I love the water so much but I also have the upmost respect for the water, be it creek, river, bay or open ocean, they can all be deadly. I posted a reply that I have seen tragedy on the water. I’m not really Interested in having any more experiences or seeing any more of those tragedies.
Just like everyone else I want to experience a good time and I think that this story is important on a number of levels which is why I shared it. Your story is also important on a number of levels and I’m glad that you shared it, thank you

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Pre-trip meeting is were the weak link was exposed. Mismatched kayaks and mismatched abilities. If you look at a paddler in the group and know they need to be near shore
because of hull, physical ability, or experience it’s a weak link in the chain of paddlers.

Actually for someone in her position she did relatively well we were out there for hours before the situation got to the point of my assessment. One could not look at this peddler and determine whether or not she was a weak link nor could information that was available to us at the time from the weather service had predicted the conditions that we ended up in. And that’s because the winds were highly localized. I was there and I prefer not to blame anyone for anything. Everyone did their best at that time it fell short and everyone learn from the experience and that last sentence is the most important part of the story

Her boat was the
visible weak link. I look at people’s gear as a start for judgement especially in the colder months. That’s no guarantee but a starting point. Now I usually just go it alone or with the wife. Go when I want, where I want, as long as I want, and in control of it all.

Had a friend I use to paddle with I met one day. We always raced each other for like 45 -60+ minute runs. He moved and I miss it.

One day we’re paddling rough day cold water he’s in a wet suit and a older norkapp. He decides he’s going further out the inlet and it’s getting rougher. I told him I’m not going any further. I said if you go out and get in trouble it’s your choice I won’t be going to help you. I will not put myself at risk to save you after I warned you. I said I’ll call the GC which was very close but scream all you want I’m not dying with you. He continues to out I am reinforcing my decision in my mind not to fall pray.

Luckily he must have been playing in his mind what I told him. He turned back not before to long to my relief. He had in his mind lets go to bout in the inlet. My senses and pessimist nature told me not a foot more time to head for home.

I disagree that her boat was the problem I think her problem was in misjudging the impact of her hand issues and not understanding the impacts of the rapidly changing weather conditions. For over 3/4 of the day on the water she was just fine.

It was not until we hit one area and being away from the shore did I see a potential problem.
Day two she was fine we how did the shore a little bit more and I told her if she got fatigued to please let me know and I will tell her for as long as it took.

Lake Tahoe is a moody lake.

People use all sorts of recreational toys and boats there and I have seen people come out of that lake completely blue due to hypothermia just in swimming by the shore.

The point of this post specifically is to highlight that people really need to understand that this wonderful sport whether it be recreational or professional has so many variables to take into consideration.

And no matter how much is taken into consideration and some serious assessments are researched and considered, surprises happen.

The beauty of the story is my friends ability to be upfront and honest about the situation, and for all of us who were on that trip to learn an important lesson.
We can hyper debrief this until the day is long but that’s not the point of this post.

Answered your own question. She was in an unsuitable kayak for the mission.

There’s a kayak page in FB mostly rec paddlers I joined. Few experienced kayakers some probably more than me. The things and situations they place themselves in is crazy especially in cold water is nuts. The few of us there who know the perils of kayaking try to help them. Some thank us some resent the advice. They get away with things I would never do. That’s like people you see in similar kayaks on Lake Tahoe they do it but it’s not safe.

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Thru reading all the responses and the initial explanation of what went on, two things come immediately to mind. The first is that if you felt you needed to unload half your gear in order to tow, it would be good to revisit what you are carrying. {This is a rare situation where this is an option and causes not only the loss of valuable time, but also an available landing spot}

The second and actually more important issue is you tie a rope with no release system to your stern in order to tow. This is a very real danger for you. It would be good for you to spend some time studying safe tow procedure not only for others safety, but for yours.


For big water there are two kinds of boats I can recommend. Larger sea kayaks with a cockpit and a spray cover ,or large deep canoes with a spray cover.

Since the threat of a mishap had not yet occurred and may never have happened, reducing my gear load by half on a multi day camping trip to reduce the strain on my body given the conditions and the possibility of the conditions worsening was prudent, it allowed me to get to my friend faster as well as reducing possible strain injuries to me. Unloading my kayak by half took a minute at the most.
Since my friend was still paddling and had not taken on water, I felt it prudent to act as I did and would not change s thing. Had my buddy been taking on water or signaling for help, that would have been different and I would have responded differently.
I was near enough to Emerald point to get to shore without issue.
Point 2 - was there no quick release system on my tow rope? I don’t think I mentioned that one way or the other.

We will never know if her situation. Was truly are one of danger or not I stopped things because I just didn’t feel comfortable in the situation I could see she was losing ground is that because of her boat in part is that because of her hand in part is that because conditions change so quickly in part is that because maybe she got fatigued, probably so.
We can nitpick this and try to rehash everything out little bit by little bit going through absolutely everything minutely.
Yeah my determination is how she had a bigger boat She probably would’ve been fine, That’s a hindsight 20/20 thing.
And yes I do appreciate everybody’s feedback and suggestions. Just because I don’t agree with an assessment doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it

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Bigger kayak doesn’t help a bad hand.At least it all ended well.

Open water in my mind means any water body that can acquire the characteristics of bigger spaces like ocean bays. That does NOT have to be water of scale depending on the specific location.

I can name inland lakes that are aligned so that by midday/early afternoon on a warm day the effect of a long fetch produces equivalent waves to being in 15 knot winds on a large ocean bay. Two in my region. One of them long but hardly wide or overall large by many standards.

I can name areas on a large ocean bay I know well in Maine that remain fairly well protected thru all but unusual wind patterns.

People IMO pay too much attention to the size of a water body and too little attention to weather conditions.


And weather is a prediction not a fact. We had a few squalls on Long Island NY that were not predicted. Did some really bad damage to boats tied up in slips. Videos were wild that I saw.

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