Advice on friend wanting toborrow kayaks

-- Last Updated: Mar-25-13 10:22 AM EST --

Looking for advice on responding to a friend who wants to borrow my two kayaks. He is a good friend, but I have never paddled with him as he mainly cycles and skis. He sent me an email yesterday asking if he could borrow our kayaks and gear to paddle down the local river (Neuse River in Raleigh, NC) with his son next weekend. As a good friend, I would like to help him but just don't think it's a good idea or very safe for him.

First, his paddling experience is very limited although he has kayaked a few times. I have never paddled with him, however, to know whether he has the skills or knowledge of safe procedures. Second, we have had an unseasonably cold late winter and early spring with temperatures consistently running 10-20 degrees below normal. Water temperatures are 51 F in the reservoir that feeds the Neuse River, but the river might be colder than that if they release water from lower depths. Water levels are about normal, not unusually high but not low either. Third, I have never paddled that stretch of the river, but I know there is a significant low-level dam (Milburnie) that he plans to portage around. However, I don't know how hard it is to spot the dam when approaching it or get out of the river in time. I do know that a number of people have drowned at that spot, mainly swimming below the dam.

Finally, my kayak is a sea kayak (P&H Capella 16.6) that is easy to tip over for someone who is experienced. It is not the ideal size or design for river paddling, and the only time I have tipped it over was while boarding it on another river. I would expect the odds would be pretty high that my friend (or whoever used my kayak) would tip it over at some point during the venture. With the water as cold as it is right now, they would be very uncomfortable at the least and risk hypothermia or drowning at the worst.

I am pretty certain that I will not let my friend use our kayaks for the reasons listed above, but still feel bad about it because he's a good friend who has helped me out many times. I was thinking about suggesting that he contact one of the local outfitters to see if they could provide boats and a guide, but not even sure if that is a good idea.

How would you handle a situation like this?

My Boats Would Stay On The Rack
Inexperienced borrower, son involved, no knowledge of a river with a known hazard, dangerously cold water - either one of those factors would be cause enough for me to refuse a similar request from friends who aren’t skilled and well-equipped paddlers.

The water is a great place to learn, experience and enjoy, but it isn’t a forgiving environment, and things can go west in a heck of a hurry. I’d tell a friend we’d do some paddling together later in the season, when the water’s warmer and he could build the skills and knowledge base needed to be safe out there…

I would tell him what you told us,

– Last Updated: Mar-25-13 6:56 PM EST –

when it comes to safety we owe it to our paddling buds to be totally straight with them. You don't want him to get hurt and hopefully he respects that. I've had some protective friends question my preparedness on the water before they really got to know me. They mumbled something about"using air mattresses for flotation" and "not having helmets" and the "suitability of a rec canoe in whitewater" I just took that as genuine concern on their part. I don't hold that against anybody. It sounds like you all need to paddle something in your comfort range together before you're ready to loan out your gear. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Explain exactly what you wrote here

a good friend should listen

– Last Updated: Mar-25-13 10:49 AM EST –

to your concerns. I like the outfitter idea -- they would probably have a better idea about it (as you have not floated that section). In talking to your friend just keep the focus on safety and how bad you would feel if something happened while they were in your boats. You also might suggest taking him out on some familiar water in a safe situation -- you could emphasize how happy you would be to do that.

You might have a "policy" -- to de-personalize it -- about not letting people borrow your boats unless you have boated with them previously -- not a bad policy!!
Jut my 2 cents.


– Last Updated: Mar-25-13 10:50 AM EST –

Your concerns are absolutely valid. All he has to do is lean upstream once, and it could become a very bad day.

I understand feeling obligated to someone who's helped you. If you're worried about seeming like a jerk, schedule a time to take them out when conditions are better, or help find a more appropriate activity for them for this weekend.

Thanks for confirming my feelings. Good idea about suggesting that I take him out another time. I put in a call to the local outfitter but got their recorded message. Apparently they aren’t even offering trips on the river yet, which is a pretty good indication of the the conditions.

great that you checked in
with folks here. You could tell him that you were worried that you were being overly protective, so you checked in with other experienced folks (here) and was told that you were NOT being overly protective. (Not sure how honest you guys are in such matters.)

We have a capella 166 also
and that is not a beginner kayak plus wrong useage - it is not a designated river kayak. It is a sea kayak meant for fairly open water, it cannot turn quickly due to its length and in rivers you need moveability.

Wrong boat/wrong conditions = no go. Trust your instincts.

listen to your instincts luke

You are right
And he is wrong to even ask. That puts you at a giant risk in a number of ways, above and beyond how bad you would feel if something went south. I am sure your friend lacks the clothing for this water temp, and based on your description I can’t see how he could handle any current in the Cappela without taking a swim.

To some degree, your friend is ignoring your own expertise in this area. If he had asked to go out with you to learn more about kayaking and the only issue was water temps it would be one thing. But asking to borrow and drive away with a few thousand dollars worth of equipment that he can’t use well (and did he happen to mention if he is set up to transport a 16 plus ft boat safely?)… I’d question his respect for what you have put in time learning.

He may not be aware of this - maybe he is a type A personality who figures everything is equally easy. But you need to bring him back to ground.

Show him this thread…
I would send him the link to this discussion. Your explanation of your reservations is cogent, and he can read for himself that a lot of experienced paddlers back up your position.

IMO, if he wants to take his son paddling, he should sign up with an instructional group, do things right, and get them both some skills. It will cost a bit, though.

My friend is a bit of a Type A, but I don’t fault him for asking. Frankly, I don’t think he knows much about kayaking and isn’t aware of the risks. He has paddled some rental kayaks before, but I think his experience is very limited. I wasn’t aware of the risks from hypothermia and cold shock until after I got a kayak and started doing some reading.

Outfitting is another issue.
Your kayaks may not be quickly adaptable to the anatomy of your friend and his son. Inexperienced paddlers, unfamiliar boats, not properly outfitted for control.

A difficult interpersonal issue, but not one where just going with the flow makes sense.

With his son…
I had slipped and missed that part. Whatever you think of this guy as a friend personally, his ego needs some major checking. The first question if he is taking a child along is to confirm what is safe, especially if he has a readily available way to check it out like to talk with you.

Lack of personal awareness doesn’t play as a good excuse when someone is going to be responsible for their child. Someone has to be a grownup.

His son is not a child, in his 20s.

OK - off base there
Sorry. I have a rather strong response to this because we dodged a bullet several years ago. A friend wanted to check out purchasing one of our boats by taking it out on the Hudson, by himself, in chilly-water weather. We felt badly, but refused to sell it to him unless we had a chance to go out with him and gauge things. (and dress him properly)

He never took us up on our offer, we never sold the boat, and a while after that we learned a few things about his behaviors that made us very glad we had not made the deal. That eventually ended badly, but our little red boat was not part of the story.

Lesson learned - any guilt from withholding “stuff” from a friend is a lot easier to manage than feeling bad about not having stopped a bad thing.

Be frank
Explain what your experiences are, what are the risks of paddling on cold water without proper attire, what it takes to flip a sea kayak. It is a pity that you can’t put them in those boats somewhere close to the shore where they can experience the joys of self rescue in the low 50s water.

Here is the scientific overview -

It’s fun to say no to type A’s

– Last Updated: Mar-25-13 6:05 PM EST –

and then watch their controlling personalities squirm. Even better not to include an explanation.

Well, I emailed my concerns to my friend, and he appreciated my views. He has decided to call off the trip for now but might try it later after it warms up and I can go along. He wasn’t offended at all by my frank assessment and thanked me for my honesty. Thanks to everyone here for helping me collect my thoughts.