Best Assisted Recovery in Rough Stuff???

What are your thoughts about the most efficient and fastest methods for doing assisted recovery in rough stuff? Wind 25 knots, swell 4 feet every 13 seconds, wind against 3 knot tide, wind waves 4 feet, water temps 55, wet suit shorty on swimmer who is not injured or exhausted. There are three of you in single kayaks. The paddler in water cannot do a self recovery of any kind.

Advantages/disadvantages to up and in and then pump, dump rather than pump and then in, would you consider orientation to the waves during the recovery, methods of dealing with that, etc.

No right answers, just interested in differing views, rationales, experiences that are real world rather than what may be promoted in the book. Thanks ahead of time.

I don’t think
the swimmer should have been out in those conditions in the first place without the proper training and the others with more experience should have had better judgement than to allow the newbie to go.

In 55 degree water and in a shorty, I would attempt to point the capsized kayak into the wave and do an assisted rescue in which I stabalize the kayak for the victim. After that, assuming we are not in a surf zone and are in open water, I would continue to stabilize the kayak (still pointing into the waves), and have the victim put on his/her spray skirt and pump out the kayak through the side of the skirt. Depending on how freaked out the kayaker is, the third kayaker may need to raft up and stabalize the victim from the other side and perhaps help pump out the kayak. 4 footers would be challenging but very doable. Now 5+ waves is a different story.

Into the waves?
How would you keep either the rescuer or the rescuee’s boat pointed into the waves, except for having the third paddler hook up a tow line to one of the boats (rescuee perhaps) and keep you so oriented? In waves, the boats would both be beam to pretty fast once they were no longer being actively paddles.

Paddle a SOT.
The capsized person can rescue themselves most of the time.

Not looking to start a fight with you SINK people

(some of my best friends are SINK people), but, a SOT has some advantages when it comes to self rescues.

I know, I know, they (SOTS) have some major disadvantages: they can get blown away in the wind, are slow and chunky, etc., etc… BUT I LIKE 'EM!

It’s all in stabilizing the victim boat
Of course a SOT paddler in 50 degree water/30 mph winds/5’ waves would have have gone unconscious from hypothermia long ago, but I guess that’s for another thread.

Let me preface my comments. I’ve talked to people “in the know” and have actually pondered the “what if” question while paddling wind driven 5-6 foot breaking waves on two occasions. And I’ve done one panic-rescue in ~60 degree water (~1 ft waves) for an inexperienced paddler w/o ANY wetsuit (80+ air temps). But I’ve never actually tried a rescue in truly cold rough waves. I’m more safety conscious than most people I paddle with, but I’m certainly no safety nazi. I used to be in the “empty first camp”, but I’m beginning to come over to the “get the paddler out of the water & then pump like hell” school of thought. BUT ONLY if you can do an excellent job of stabilizing the boat. This is not a time for “arm stabilizing”. Really lean over and grab onto the far side of the victims boat, do not let it re-capsize.

I completely agree with Celia, keeping the boat pointed upwind would be a lost cause, and I think it’s actually unimportant in big waves. Remember it’s not the wave height that’ll get you, it’s the wave length. In my experience, you just slowly bob up and down in big waves, even in big 30 knot wind-driven waves (5-6 ft) that are breaking in open water they generally don’t toss you around violently. If you’re truly doing a good job of stabilizing the victims boat (see above), then I doubt you’ll have much problem with the waves. That being said, in all the recovery practice I’ve done & seen it’s uncommon to see anyone really lean over and create a stellar brace with the victim’s boat.

Also note that there is actually quite a lot to consider in a rescue aside from getting the victim back in the boat. Why did they go over in the first place (fatigue)? Is bad weather (lightening) approaching? Can you hatch a quick “plan B” to get to shore? What is the psychological condition of the victim?

My $0.02

What’s a “sink” anyway? Besides that thing in my kitchen…

actually you’d be surprised
I think that facing into the wave is really useful. It prevents the wave/swell from broadsiding the kayaks, it is easier to maintain stability, and your two kayak will not be in danger of running over each other. I have done surf zone rescues and practiced in 3 foot swells and its surprisingly easy to maintain facing oncoming swells without paddling as long as you are not in surf zone. Your mileage my vary but I suggest you try it out. Of course it also depends on how easily you can manuever your two kayaks by hand.

SINK = Sit INside Kayak (closed cockpit)

SOT = Sit On Top kayak


Open Ocean Swells Are Much Easier
to deal with than surf zone waves.


Manuver by hand
If you have one free maybe… at 5’4" and 135 pounds, I need both my hands and upper body to stabilize a boat while an average sized guy is getting over and in the boat, since they will usually outweight me by at least 50 pounds. Have had similar problems getting women with limited upper body strength back in, need one hand to grab their PFD and the other to hang onto their boat.

I’d agree that facing into the waves would be nice if the rescuer and rescuee are configured for that to be possible. But for an average sized woman rescuing the average sized guy there are moments in an assisted rescue when both my appendages and upper body are in full use for the basics. I’d rather have the third paddler on my other side forming a three wide raft than out at the end of a tow rope in those conditions, I think.

"rescue themselves"
The ability to self rescue has little to do with boat type and everything to do with developing appropriate skills for whatever and wherever you paddle.

If I was was pitched off in steep confused waves from my SOT recovery would not be a no brainer as some assume. I know because I found the worst spot I could and practiced just that. If timing is not just right and the remount executed swiftly and with full commitment - the SOT will tend to flip you right back off as the waves turn it over (and it whacks you on the head). Only takes a few of these unsuccessful attempts, while fighting to keep hold of the boat and paddle (even with leash you need active control to avoid problems), to get tired to the point of having serious difficulty.

I was pretty fearless on my SOT, but because it was tested in the worst I was likely to even run into here (not epic stuff, but quite similar to the scenario above).

Far too many SOT drivers assume they can remount and never practice or test it in conditions. I’m working toward that same level of confidence with my SINK, and have a ways to go, but I also have a lot more recovery options and less chance of being out of the boat to begin with.

I agree with the first response. Someone with zero self rescue skills should not be out there (but my real opinion is that someone with no self rescue skill should not paddle anywhere more challenging than a duck pond - period - and even there they should be practicing self rescues! It’s not optional, it’s part of the sport).

Someone with zero self rescue skills could be very hard to rescue with any technique. Might as well bonk them on the head and do a scoop rescue!

Helps if wind and wave…
…are from similar direction.

This is why most kayaks are designed to weathercock slightly, isn’t it? Face into the waether for dealing with trouble?

Three boats rafted together seems to be an advantage here vs. just one other rescuer.

Given this, the paddler in water should be able to get back up on aft deck, with possible help from either a stirrup strap, pulled up by a kayaker.

One point for all those stating that such people do not belong on the water. While we can control this within our own groups, one never knows when out on the water that you might have to rescue a stranger out there, not with you.

Not the answer he’s looking for…
A SOT paddled by a person with rough water experience would not have this dilemma in the first place. He/she would turn his/her boat upright, climb back on and paddle away.

Not all paddlers subscribe to the K.I.S.S. principal. Solving this problem with a SOT may be obvious to you and me, but some paddlers enjoy “complicating the hell out of it”. Let them enjoy their madness…LOL



"person with rough water experience"
Is the key statement here. A person in a SINK with rough water experience would either roll as to never swim in the first place or simply reenter and roll and be off on their way if they do swim.

The initial poster was referring to a novice paddler with no such experience. I think it is fair to say that many people who rent kayaks go out in conditions that they should not be in and it is not a huge stretch of the imagination that one of us may encounter just such a paddler during one of our outings. Although I agree that many true beginners may be better off renting a SOT, SOT’s are not immune from danger. Heck some friends of mine rescued a paddler in a SOT just last summer in the Apostle Islands.

for this wildly hypothetical situation
you say that the victim can’t assist at all?

If so a scoop is the only thing you really can do. and better yet an assisted scoop if you have to.

But if you meant that the victim wasn’t capable of doing a paddle float or re-enter roll, then that’s something else entirely, and that would be a quick t-rescue. I think pumping out first is good as long as it isn’t too hairy.

Gear totally inadequate
it it ain’t breaking the last part of a “T” rescue will work unless one of the wave surfaces is steep. Four feet every 13 seconds not steep. Wind waves might be another matter.

I would not go paddling in that water temp with that individual. No way. get them in and have them pump it out. Get a spare hood on the moron’s head. Get a cliff bar into them if they are not diabetic, they will need it. YOu will quickly see who has practiced leaning theri boat to the max toward the boat they are stabilizing ,so that both boats become a unit of stability, and who has been just counting on arm strength for stability

Assisted T
Those aren’t the conditions I’d go out in without a competent instructor/mentor to help me learn. I think that generally a good assisted T rescue with both parties knowing what they are doing has a lot of advantages in getting people going fast.

If the rescuer is close and the swimmer in good shape and knows the drill, then dumping the boat won’t take much more time up front and will get everybody safer, quicker. If you can’t get it done quick and the swimmer is slow, then get them back in the boat however you can and hopefully you can get the boat pumped enough for them to stay upright.

I think Flatpick has expressed some opinions to this effect, and maybe he will chime in.

Got An Idea…
rather than leaving it hypothetical, east coast folks can head out in the coming days and try it for real. “Walk the talk” rather than just “talk the talk.” Just pick a place with a good bail out. :slight_smile:

Of course, please leave the newbie at home unless you want a real “rescue or die” situation.