Capsized Sea Kayak and re-entry

-- Last Updated: Jul-29-10 9:24 AM EST --

Getting back (re-entry) into a capsized sea kayak on the open sea is not easy, especially when paddling solo in a double sea kayak. I have a Kaskazi Duo which comes with 3 bulkheads; you have 2 large dry storage compartments (one forward and one aft) which also acts as a buoyancy aid to the kayak. A capsized double sit inside sea kayak floods with water during a wet exit and getting back into the cockpit and emptying the water out of the kayak is doable but not easy, even with calm water.

We have practiced capsize drills many times (unassisted) on the open ocean and we always got back into the kayak successfully, bailed water out of the two cockpits for about 10 minutes and continued paddling without any problems. From personal experience the first step is to remain calm and continuously plan and be flexible when sitting in the kayak upside down underneath the water. We release paddles, locate the release straps in the front and release the spray skirts, then push outwards and pop up to the surface. We always ensure that both of us are okay and we even make a joke or two while in the water, the Atlantic is brrrr cold.

The second step is determining the wind direction as this will assist with flipping the kayak, then going underneath the kayak while it is capsized and count from 1 to 3 before lifting & turning the kayak. Getting back into the kayak is the third step with a small team effort, the person in the rear gets in first from the stern side and the person in the front gets in secondly from the bow. The person in the front will hold the kayak at the bow while the person in the rear gets into the kayak, holds both paddles and awaits the person in the front to get back into the kayak. If the wind is strong with choppy water you can throw out a small sea anchor to get the kayak facing a fixed direction.

The bottom line when you capsize or find yourself in the water and need to get back into your kayak what method and/or devices can help me in the process? Is the method and device reliable for you? Have you practiced it sufficiently to count on the method or the device? Choose the one or all of them that work for you. We make use of a home made floatation system we activate once the kayak have been turned right side up and the kayak is filled with water, this gives kayak stability and the wind & choppy waters have a minimal effect on the system - it works much better than paddle floats.

I would like to see or hear from anybody with any home made (improvised) CO2 floatation systems as oral inflation of large floatation tubes are not always easy or possible in the Atlantic during winter time.

Martin (South Africa)

Use a paddle float on the end of your…
paddle. (as a outrigger and an assist getting back in)

With one paddler in the water holding the kayak down on his or hers side, and the other paddler using a paddle float as an assist on the opposite side you should be able to get back in, in just a matter of seconds.

My wife and I used to have a 23 foot long tandem kayak, and we would practice self rescue and assisted rescue once a year.

jack L

Once a year…
is nowhere near enough to practice anything.

ditch the paddle?
Holding on to your paddle and boat when you wet-exit is a good idea, since losing either, or both, is a bummer. When I show people how to find their grab loop and wet-exit, I show how they can do all that with their paddle in one hand.

I’d say that even if using a paddle leash you should not drop your paddle, as that’s your best connection to the boat.

Works for me.

– Last Updated: Jul-29-10 4:47 PM EST –

I'm not doing it for excercise.
I am doing it to make sure I can.
Kind of comes natural after fifteen years of doing it.

You must be a newbie! - got a profile?

Jack L

heel hook rescue
works for canoes and kayaks. It can be done faster than any equipment assisted rescue.

demo on the ACA website.

It really needs an assisting boat, but I did mange it in my RapidFire solo without the boat turtling again. I ascribe that to luck and to calm water…

Paddle float
Two paddle floats on one paddle will create an extremely stable outrigger. Even in rougher seas one paddler can stabilize the boat with the outrigger, while the other pumps. Once the cockpit is reasonably empty, or the pumper is tired, switch paddle and pump.

I recommend that the person with less body mass starts pumping first.

If you are into making your own stuff, a simplest paddle float can be made from foam - encase in a bag and create a pocket for your paddle. Don’t forget straps to attach paddle float to the shaft. Shortcoming - a bit of eye sore if carried on deck, but it is always ready to deploy, no need to inflate.

Thank you all for the replies

– Last Updated: Jul-29-10 11:47 PM EST –

Thank you all for the replies, suggestions are always welcome & appreciated. I am a newbie on the forum but definitely not a newbie on the water.

I have rowed kleppers & nautiraids for 12 years and prion for 6 and I'm into my custom made kaskazi now which keeps my occupied and smiling out there.

My floatation system is no eye sore as it is stowed away nearby (on the inside on the sides of the forward cockpit)and can be clipped onto the sides (half way between the hull and deck area) of my kayak within 30 seconds and secured with 4 stainless steel clips and pulled tight with 4 cam buckles after inflation, after this it is a matter of climbing back from the water into my kayak.

As I mentioned earlier we have to bail out water for about 10minutes solid before the floats are removed by simply releasing the cam buckles and unclipping the clips.

We are making use of two small square ice cream buckets, one pump and two large sponges for bailing.

If I had space in the coolerbox I was towing behind me I would have stored rigid paddle floats in there, but space is limited on my kayak.

Might take a look at Seaward’s rigging for holding the paddle to the deck to make a paddle float recovery easier. It’s the best I’ve seen, mentioned my Sea Kayaker magazing for the same thing.

Having a paddle float on the paddle helps, holding it onto the coaming while trying to enter the kayak is something else entirely. Much easier if it’s pre-rigged to do this. Bungies for this are absolutely useless.

Bill H.

electric pump
have you tried one?

Lee, you seem to really address this
Lee, you seem to really address this properly.

Many paddlers usually practice drills in conditions that don’t mimic those that will probably cause capsizing.

Normally people don’t fall in when it’s calm; they fall in when it’s rough.

So, how many have tried to empty a flooded kayak when it’s rough? hmmm…

Manual pumps are only so good and they take a lot of time. Require two to work efficiently (how many have tried to empty a kayak with a hand pump when it’s wavy?) but the biggest problem is waves refilling the open cockpit.

After a few fumble attempts with hand pumps in rough conditions I realized that they aren’t any good for REAL situations.

I have since installed in ALL my kayaks (and a few friends’) an electric bilge pump.

These days when I get tossed out of the kayak in the surf I reenter and roll.

Precariously balancing the kayak with the flooded cockpit I just flick a switch, close the opening with the spray skirt and BALANCE with my paddle in my hands (not the pump) to stay upright.

It does not require any help (however welcome).

Details on an electric bilge pump install here:

A bilge pump sounds like the solution
I agree, an accidental capsize is not a planned exercise but it can happen to any experienced paddler, just one of those unforeseen things in life. Getting back into a double sea kayak after a capsize in choppy water with the wind blowing can be difficult but with team work it is done within minutes. I can not roll because my sea kayak is a double sea kayak and rolling a double sea kayak is not possible. I have emptied many fully flooded kayaks on the open ocean during bad weather conditions when it is rough, all the times I used a large bailer bucket with a soft flat bottom (an old 5l oil can) and the last bit of water I got out with a large sponge.

Yes, an automated or manual switch that can be flicked to activate a bilge pump inside the kayak will do the trick to bail the water out within minutes. Getting back into a kayak is not easy with a fully flooded kayak unless you have a bag of small tricks (bilge pumps for example) and some experience. Paddle floats are a nuisance to me and also difficult to use, I use a different system that works on an emergency CO2 system which I can activate within 30seconds after a capsize (it works perfectly and has an oral valve as a backup). My system gives me great stability to get back into my fully flooded kayak, I will do a test and install a small bilge pump amidships with a sealed battery pack in the rear of my kayak – BUT I’m concerned about extra weight.

Very possible
It is very possible to roll a tandem kayak. It does take practice, and an almost impossible degree of cooperation, timing and technique between the 2 paddlers, but it can be done. If memory serves, one of the This is the Sea series has a couple guys rolling a tandem. I’m pretty sure that Dubside could roll one by himself. But it definitely requires spot on technique.

We keep things simple & fun
All good and well, but seriously one does not expect a capsize and you must have a re-entry plan. Capsizes usually occur when you do not expect it and when it happen I’m sure hardly anybody in a double sea kayak will be able to roll it back because of it’s size, weight and experience involved.

Even if you and your partner are well trained to roll a double sea kayak you will have the elements such as wind, swell, visibility and choppy water against you.

This is the reason why my wife and I will not even practice double sea kayak rolls on flat water. We will always be reading the sea correctly and if there is an uneventful occasion where we capsize due to a large wave for example we will do our normal capsize drill and carry on from there.

Stability of the kayak by what ever method you prefer is up to you, whether it is your paddle float or my CO2 system, but you will get back into the flooded kayak and either start bailing water (automated bilge pump or manually with hand pump/buckets/sponges), or rowing to the shore to empty your flooded kayak there.

My wife is not as experienced as I am on the water, but we love paddling together, I do not expect her to do all the crazy things we as men do, so we keep things simple & fun but well organized.

I looked at a couple of examples of automated kayak bilge pump systems on the internet last night and I will look into this option and do a test.