Another kayak death: no PFD

-- Last Updated: Feb-19-08 10:40 PM EST --

In Port Aransas, Texas, a brand-new kayaker with a rented boat goes out on the ocean without a PFD, and dies:

More lessons than just PFD
Since I live in Corpus just across the bay from Port Aransas I have been following this story pretty closely. Besides the obvious lack of PFD, two other things struck me about this incident.

  1. Paddling in the dark is not the same as paddling in daylight. I made several night paddles in protected water and felt comfortable doing it. When I made my first open water night paddle I found it very disconcerting being lifted by waves I could not see. They were much smaller than anything that usually caused any concern, but still I was quite uncomfortable for a while.

    If you are making your first open water night paddle you might want to make sure conditions are well below your normal comfort level until you see how you react to waves you can not see coming.

  2. Danger of protected points (headlands) - From what I read it seems likely they were fishing on the protected inside between the 2 jetties (closer to the north jetty). To get to the nearest shore for a rest they went out to round the north jetty and then paddle on the outside of the jetty to the beach on San Jose Island. I used to think that you could just stick you nose out past a point and see the conditions well enough to make a go/no go decision. My experience and reading of several incident reports has changed my mind. Although you might start to feel the full wind force early, the underwater topography extending out from the point may actually still be providing quite a bit of protection from waves. The worst waves could be further out or further across on the windward side of the point where the most signiifcant depth change causes the waves to steepen and break. If you are not paying attention to what is in the distance you can round a point and be fooled into thinking it is not really to bad. You can find yourself paddling into the worst of the conditions further along where the waves are actually breaking on the underwater portions of the point.

    I do not know if either of these contributed to the incident, but they are real world problems that can cause capsize and I thought it appropriate to mention them. I believe the most likely scenario is that they rounded the jetty and in the dark paddled right into one of the best surf breaks on the Texas coast where 2-3ft small swells get jacked up into the 6-8 ft breakers loved by the surfing crowd down here.


Another link with video…

The triple set of huge waves sounded like wakes to me (by that’s probably my local bias from my inlet). Their blindly stumbling into breakers/surf on the outside explanation sounds good too (though around here the outside’s nearlt always safer than the inside inlet between the jetties).

Nighttime? Missed that. I only saw “early”. A first timer out in the dark? Was the other guy also a first timer? Seems odd to me that two newbs would go out like that.

Some more info
Coast Guard logged in the distress call about 5:55 am. Not sure exactly how long it took from capsize to call, but probably capsize was closer to 5:30am. Sunrise was a little after 7:00 am so I think it was still pretty dark when they capsized.

Current predictor website says there should have been about a 2 knot ebb around that time in the channel. However, winds were light at the time so I do not think it was a “wind against current” situation. Bouy data from 30 mile offshore showed some pretty good wind and waves about 5-6 hours earlier so swell from some of that could have been coming in at the time of capsize. I don’t know what the exact delay between shore and bouy is, but I know there is some delay.


Kayaker Death
I hope everyone on this forum sees the video about this missing Kayaker. Especially those that insist you don’t need to have a PFD. Vaughn Fulton

Down at Port Aransas

– Last Updated: Feb-20-08 3:55 PM EST –

some of the waves generated in the narrow channels by the big ship and barge traffic can be way bigger than what you would typically encounter out in the open Gulf, so you really have to be on your toes so to speak. I am amazed at the speed at which some of those ships are moving in such close quarters. If you were paddling in the dark in some of those channels, it would be over before you knew what hit you.

Another Person Gone in Oregon
There is another sad story about a 20 year old who went of his first spearfishing trip but in a Zodiac. His friend had a wetsuit on, so when their Zodiac capsized, he finally washed ashore alive and well, but his 20 year old friend who did not have a wetsuit or PFD on was lost at sea.


where is the Georgia Kayaker
when he is really needed?

I’m trying to refrain from any remarks.

– Last Updated: Feb-20-08 6:09 PM EST –

obviously he wasn't a p.netter.

Informed decision

– Last Updated: Feb-20-08 6:42 PM EST –

A newbie kayaker doesn't have enough experience or knowlege to make an informed decision about whether or not to use a PFD. In this case, it would be reasonable to defer to the overwhelmingly consistant standards of safety and wear one.

An experienced kayaker should have enough experience and knowlege to make that decision for -himself-.

What is the water temp there?

Water Temps
The inshore temp near where they capsized is running about 61degF today. Probably right around that on the day of the capsize. I seem to recall temps ranging from 59 to 63 over the last week. It drops if we get several cold days in a row. The Gulf temp out about 30 miles is running about 68-70 degF.


6.6 Billion…people need to die…

– Last Updated: Feb-20-08 11:52 PM EST –

There ya go GK! I'll take the heat on this one.

This is very sad.
Heartbreaking for the parents.

Tough to understand why if the other paddler could recover two boats he did not attempt to rescue. I’m assuming he had no clue how to paddle in 6 -7 foot waves, I doubt they were that large.

why is he needed? (GK)
And why is it that every time some darwin award winner or unfortunate soul who dies without a pfd (perhaps he didn’t really know about the dangers? I didn’t when I first started) comes up in the news the people who are not darwin award winners and who do make conscious decisions to not go with the flow are brought up as either examples of wrongdoing or elected as defenders for someones decision making to not wear a piece of safety equipment? in this case GK?

Vast difference in the decision making process and the experience level. Unfair to throw them up as examples of wrongdoing I have paddled with JackL and hope to paddle with GK soon.

One of the main reasons I like GK is that he is the turd in the punchbowl. :slight_smile:


Beyond the PFD

– Last Updated: Feb-21-08 7:46 AM EST –

The biggest value of the typical paddling PFD is to assist in helping someone who is otherwise compromised to stay afloat. The operative word is to assist though, since a paddling PFD won't keep someone's head out of the water for them.

In this case, it seems that something else has to have happened first that made the PFD a necessity. Maybe the one who didn't make it tried to swim for shore and didn't make it.

61 degrees isn't what a paddler in a wetsuit or other layer would likely find to be hypothermia stuff. But someone in jeans and a Tshirt could find that to be pretty cold, and/or be weighted down by their clothes beyond their ability to stay afloat.

The reason that any rental outfit would send two paddlers out without making sure that they are both wearing their PFD's and are dressed properly, even if it means keeping some shorties around that rent out with the boats, escapes me. It seems that this would be a great way to not be in business too long since the first big suit is going to pretty much wipe out your insurance. But we live in the northeast so cold water is an issue for most of the year. And maybe the rental outfit did make them wear PFD's and they took them off - hard to tell.

It's sad. It's also going to repeat between now and later in June as people go out based on air temps rather than water temps and conditions.

njkayaker got it right
A newbie doesn’t always have the knowlege base to make an informed decision about whether to wear a PFD. Very sad.

Obviously, GK has a bit better sense of humor than you do :)!

Usless speculation
"The reason that any rental outfit would send two paddlers out without making sure that they are both wearing their PFD’s and are dressed properly, even if it means keeping some shorties around that rent out with the boats, escapes me."

This is useless speculation.

We really don’t have -any- information to be able to judge the company renting the boat. People choose not to wear PFDs all the time (even after being advised to to so). (The situation would be strange if it was a guided trip but it appears it wasn’t guided.)


– Last Updated: Feb-21-08 3:39 PM EST –

"In this case, it seems that something else has to have happened first that made the PFD a necessity."

This is correct and is the basic characteristic of ALL safety equipment.

The idea is to -never- need the PFD!

Safety equipment is a backup for mistakes/etc that people make. They are always secondary to some primary chain of events.

In fact, the need for PFD (or any piece of saftey equipment) is actually rather rare. This can tend to suggest to people that the safety equipment provides no real value. It's just insurance that you should never need.

Note as well that saftey equipment doesn't guarantee safety. The purpose is to increase the odds of survival at a reasonable cost and at a reasonable level of inconvenience.

The fact that safety equipment has a statistical value means that, given enough accidents, there will be cases where the safety equipment fails to do it's job (eg, when circumstances exceed the performance of the equipment). Thus, anecdotal examples of failure don't disprove the value of the equipment (ie, some failures are expected).

You might think the above paragraph is obvious (it should be) but it's fairly common to find, in safety equipment discussions, people offering anectdotal evidence to "disprove" the value of the equipment.