Assisted rescue for unathletic

A couple of threads have mentioned the problem of someone with low upper body strength trying to climb onto a high back deck during a solo reentry or assisted rescue. If it’s an assisted rescue and you are the rescuer, and you have a lower-volume boat, you might try having the person climb on your back deck first and than crawl across to their own boat.

My first post-class rescue worked exactly that way. The swimmer could not climb up on her boat once I had emptied it, so I had her come across the much lower back deck of my Avocet. I had just read about the “my deck-your deck” recue in Sea Kayaker but hadn’t tried it until then.

One Other Idea
I have a friend who was is able to climb up and onto the rear deck even using a stirup during an assisted rescue.

We tried several things and finally found something that worked. We left the cockpit flooded. I rotated the boat 90 degrees so that the cockpit was facing her. She had her paddle with float and put her feet in the cockpit and worked her bottom into the seat. We counted 1,2 3 and I pulled the cockpit upright and she pushed down on her paddle with the float on at the same time. This was very difficult on both parties but was the only thing we found that did it.


Re-enter and Roll

– Last Updated: May-23-06 11:10 AM EST –

Yeah, that is a re-enter and roll using a paddle float. As long as the person can climb into their boat in the water without getting freaked out, it is a very easy rescue. I would imagine that almost anyone could do it without someone else pulling on the cockpit. The paddle float gives a very secure platform on which to pull yourself up when it is out at 90 degrees to the boat (like in a C to C roll).

What might be even easier for a beginner would be to do the wet re-entry, and then use a bow rescue. I really think anyone could do this and it would probably be easier on both of you.

Assisted rescue for the unathletic
Since I am border-line unathletic myself, I feel free to speak out on this subject. In my humble opinion there are some people who should not be paddling. At some point, reality has to trump. If it takes all the ingenuity your partner can muster just to rescue you, you need another sport. It’s unfair to make others take part in suicide by poor judement.

Couragous honesty…
and dose of reality.

thank you
this is where judgement comes in. If it’s a rollable kayak the paddler should eventually learn to roll. If they can’t manage self-rescues they should paddle with others and have a more stable kayak, ie. Pachena or similar efficient,wide, round bottomed boat.

Scoop rescue
Sounds like what you did:

Importance of self rescue is serious
I am really encouraged to see this thread. It is important for us to learn how to create assisted recoveries and rescues for all types of paddlers and boats.

That said, there always comes the time when conditions make for every person for themselves. Self reliance and self rescue is paramount in our sport. Like CPR, not needed often but needed.

There really is no safety in numbers in these situations and as leaders we encourage poor judment in our participants if we come off like “big daddy, we will take care of you come on out”.

What happens when “big daddy” gets sea sick?

There are a number of self recoveries that work for folks of less strength, fighting middle age bulk, and not super jocks. Float assisted, ladder prys, flooded scoop with bow, etc.

And yes, thanks for the courage here to say some folks must reconsider how and where they go and in what conditions.

Our approach is to be of integrity, to encourage honest, compassionate self-appraisal with guided discovery.

Won’t work with some boats
Some rec kayaks float with the front of the cockpit rim under water when fully flooded, making it impossible to pump out after a wet re-entry.

What Mark said
That is a neat variation of what I have learned as a scoop rescue. Except I never thought of having the paddler help out with the paddle float on the end of their paddle, since it’s often presented as a way to rescue a physically disabled paddler. Cool idea!

There is a way to reduce the strength requirement of the rescuer, though some is still required. This trick made all the diff when I practiced it with my husband, who outweighed me by about 45 or so pounds at the time and is in a bigger boat that somewhat challenges my arm reach. Make sure the person being rescued floats their legs fully into the cockpit, keeps their head fully back and relaxed, in sum stays basically low and relaxed. That’ll reduce the amount of strength it takes to bring the boat up by pushing/pulling on the edges of the coaming. (If adding the paddle flaot/paddle, maybe have the swimmer just hold it out from their chest and push down without looking at it when you do the count for the lift.)

Excitement and limits
This is truly super. Many of these ideas can be shared and great result will occur. Allot more folks will be able to assist and self rescue and this is so so satisfying and safer.

I must still remind myself that the high decks, tight cockpits, lack of floatation, possibility of so much weight and lack of strength and a person being sick, bad back, or even unconscious can make it impossible to both have their backside inside the cockpit and to lay them back making it possible to get up and safe. It is really essential we all know our limits even super enthusiastic I can make it happen somehow me!

What is it called?
What is that rescue called where you bang on your hull and someone puts their bow in your reach and you just use their bow to roll up. I happen to know that it even works well for 40 inch wide canoes with floatation so it should work for any boat with proper floatation.

I just cannot remember what that rescue is called.

One good thing about summer is the warm water makes it fun to do a lot of swimming and experimenting with flooded boats. Kind of makes up for the heat and the bugs. My children have no fear of capsizng because they’ve spent so much time in the water swimming and playing with the boats as water toys.

liv2paddle taught me that last Fall and called it the Eskimo Roll. I would stick my hands up and wave them back and forth on the same side of the boat and he would manuver his bow into my reach. Then I used his bow to lift myself up.


Forward if not back

– Last Updated: May-23-06 1:16 PM EST –

If the rescuee can't lie back for a scoop, have them bend forward as much as possible. Leaning forward or back helps move the CG closer to the centerline of the boat.

The scoop is a standard rescue for adaptive paddling groups.

Eskimo bow rescue

– Last Updated: May-23-06 1:21 PM EST –

It requires the rescuee to have the patience and trust to wait for their partner, and to not fall out of their boat.

The rescuee should not try to pull themselves upright all at once -- it's a great way to tweak a shoulder and unbalance the rescuer. Pull yourself up until your head just breaks the surface, take a breath, relax, and then hip-roll your boat up.

Lean back. Lean Wayyy back. Also if you can push down on the hull when you are rotating the boat that can help, but its another place where the higher volume will make things more difficult.

I like the paddlefloat assist idea. Probably would be good if the person had an idea how to hipsnap to help.

Real world Application ?
This is great in pool practice, but how often does this work in the real world? I’ve seen a whitewater boater do this once in an eddy. Once in a rockgarden when somebody tipped over goofing off for the camera. I’ve never seen it done in surf. Most people hold their breath about 15 seconds before they bail. Hard to maneuver out on the Ocean in 15 seconds.

In real life conditions there is a
variation of this called the Eskimo side rescue that works very well.

The rescuer paddles alongside of the capsized boat and bridges the two boats with his paddle.

The rescuer than grabs the hand that the victim is moving back and forth this will stop the forward or backward motion of the rescuer’s boat.

The rescuer than takes the victim’s hand and puts it on the shaft of the paddle bridge.

The victim then rolls up using the paddle shaft as a support.

Wayne Horodowinch has an excellent write up of this with pictures at

Takes time but
I have finally gotten to where I can wait a decent bit for help, decidedly longer than 15 seconds, can attest that it works. Relatively recent experience in fact when I was working on something that I knew had a limited chance of success at the end of an evening paddle. It does take some time to get that comfortable, and it still wouldn’t apply in cases where I didn’t know the skills and responsiveness of the other paddlers. But in cases where I know my companions, it works fine.

Gotta say though, it gets much, much easier when you can pop up into a balance brace to grab air and see where the heck everyone is.

WaterDoc is correct, liv2paddle Dan taught me that one at the same time as the eskimo bow rescue. I had forgotten about it. It does work and could be easier at least in terms of positioning the two boats correctly.