Evasive Action?

-- Last Updated: Aug-08-11 9:41 AM EST --

7:45 Saturday morning and it was already hot in the sun.
I put the Voyager onto the Merrimack in Dracut, Ma and headed across the river for the shade on the Andover side. I noticed a power boat about a half mile away coming up river. But I figured I'd be well out of his way before he got to me. WRONG!
I was two thirds across when I realized he was flying and a lot closer than I'd figured. But I was almost to the Andover side and he was tracking up the Dracut side. OK. Then I watched him turn right towards me! Oh Oh!
I had time for a couple more strokes, wondering if I was really going to get T-boned. Then he swerved away and got off the gas.
As he drifted by he apologized. Said he hadn't seen me or my 17' canoe (broadside to him) until the last second. He sounded more shook up than I felt.

So other than painting my boat(s) dayglow orange, Is there anything else I could have done to avoid getting hit?

Thr rest of my paddle, down to the Lawrence Dam and back was pretty peacefull if you don't count the traffic on Rt 93 going over the river.

Probably not
In order to see something you have to be looking… And lots of powerboaters do not even if just for a minute.

Until there is more enforcement of laws regarding yielding ROW we are just cans on the back fence.

I have a 2 x 3 Gadsden flag I always mount on the back of my canoe when paddling waters with powerboats. I don’t know if it helps my visibility but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Kayaks don’t have ROW
unless they are the stand on vessel! Clearly this boater was not paying attention, but kayakers need to understand the Rules and not make assumptions that they have any special restricted status. They Don’t per Inland Rules or International Colregs. They may have with some state or local bodies of water.

Be safe, be smart, be educated.

ROW question?
This very specific case seems less a ROW issue and more about being seen (or heard) since he saw the boat and gave ample clearance but then the boat changed course right towards him. So no good planning on route would help leaving either staying off the water or compensating better for kayaks being hard to see.

Perhaps in such waters an air horn could help? Lucky not to have the issue where I paddle so I’m not as well versed in the strategies.

Paddle with an 18 year-old babe
in a bikini on a SUP. The yahoos’ll spot you a mile away.

I meant ROW as in something not to be
hit. I know in the scheme of things paddle boats only have a ROW over a recreational power vessel and nothing else.

However a judge in NYS ruled that a powerboater that hit and killed a kayaker was not liable. Until we get the courts to regard the legitimacy of paddle craft to be able to be on the water we’re at a disadvantage.


This wasn’t ROW

– Last Updated: Aug-08-11 6:21 PM EST –

This was bad driving. The paddle boat had already cleared more than what was left of the channel by the time they were close, the motor boat had a good long time to see him, then the motor boat aggravates the risk by turning towards the paddle boat rather than staying on a course that wouldn't have risked a collision.

It didn't matter whether the craft the motor boater managed to nearly hit was a paddle boat or another powered boat or a sailboat - they were equally in the wrong when they made a change towards the other boat.

When I did take the boating course to get my license, situations like this were in no way fuzzy. If there was a question about error before the motor boat turned towards the paddle boat at the last bit, it was resolved when they did that.

That said - later add - obviously the folks in the paddle boat risked being unable to pursue their rightness if the damned fool had run over them.

not my understanding

– Last Updated: Aug-08-11 12:40 PM EST –

You say that paddle craft only have right of way over recreational power craft. Not so, as I read it. Paddle craft are part of the same broad category of boats without any special status when it comes to Right of Way. As such, we give way to boats under sail, towing vessels, those engaged in fishing, and those restricted by draft. When the vessel we meet doesn't fall in any of those restricted categories (like the power boat on the Merrimack), we still must give way if they are in a channel and we're crossing, or if we're looking at their port side. Also, there is no distinction in the Colregs or Inland rules between recreational and commercial vessels, as far as I know.

2nd the motion on a flag
A blaze orange flag/ribbon that flutters in the air will get attention and should have no noticble effect on paddle speed.

Go rent a power boat once and see first hand what it’s like to be flying over water? And see how much, or rather, how little things register?

As a cyclist and a car driver, I often think in terms of both. When I ride, I think “will a coming car see me?” If the answer is no, that would be the last time I rode there (or during that time of day). Being seen is 90% of being safe.

By the time you got hit, it’s too late to discuss the rule of road or water!

Besides My Mango PFD
I keep a really LOUD DAYGLO ORANGE hat handy for high traffic days. Hey, it might make my widow a few bucks.

(Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Mister Kudzu was wearing THIS at the time of the collision.)

On the bike I’ll wear an especially loud, light colored jersey and clip a strobe to the back of the bike if conditions are less than ideal.

You are invisible
Kayaks and canoes are essentially invisible.

Glare, confused backgrounds on the shore.

Add to that people have to actually be looking to see.

Do your part to avoid collision.

You pays your money you takes your chances.

Best evasive action
is to not paddle around motor boats. After a similar incident last year that almost cost me my life—the boat came straight at me at high speed and turned away literally at the last second—I decided to never again paddle in motor boat country in the summer, or even fall on some lakes. It’s not that pleasant anyway, and I’m just not comfortable putting my life in the hands of people who can’t even see over their bow, aren’t looking where they’re going, have been consuming alcohol, don’t know the boating laws, etc.

Those behaviors are the rule rather than the exception on the crowded lakes. You can’t spend an hour on the water without seeing several incidents like passing too close to a kayak. Very few motor boat drivers are aware of the no-wake law in my state.

You had certain expectations of this driver. You learned that you can’t have those expectations. They do illogical, careless, dangerous, or just nonvigilant things.

How to be seen?
There was no right of way issue. He had plenty of room to avoid me. There were no other craft around. If anything I’d guess he did not expect to see anybody else out there at that hour and got too complacent. In his own words he simply didn’t see me until he was too close for his own comfort and mine.

For what it’s worth I don’t paddle kayaks. That morning I was in a 17’ Wenonah Voyager canoe. Sadly it’s not red. I love red canoes! I expect the “Sand” color did not help me there.

But the canoe has a lot more volume above the water than most kayaks. Broadside I’d still think it would have been easily visible in the morning light with the sun at his back.

I often fly the Stars and Stripes off my bow. I was wondering if he would have seen that? There was very little wind and I don’t believe it would have been flying much.

This is the second time that I’ve wished I was more visible.

fire a flare
at him…say you didn’t see him.

Bright colors
My PFD is Mango, I often wear yellow or orange shirts when paddling in high-traffic areas, and either a yellow or red wide-brimmed hat. Fashion statement? Nope, but I get seen more often than not.

And near or after dark, I run regulation running lights on my kayaks and canoes - THEN I’m the most visible, because power boaters are looking for red/green bows and white sterns.

In your case, you did everything you could. The best you can do in that situation is hold your course, maybe pick up the pace, and sound collision (5 blasts) on a horn if you have one, and can do that while not stopping paddling. Stopping and waving your paddle is worse than doing nothing many times, because now you’re a stationary target.

It’s the same as driving a car - sometimes doing everything right isn’t enough, but 99.999% of the time, it is.

Well the problem, Tom, is that…
…that demonstrative flare you exhibit in your own particular style of clam-diggers (you know, the ones where Roy Lichtenstein dueled it out with Jackson Pollock and an army of paint-ballers while locked in a warehouse of sailcloth headin’ for Hobie Fashions Singapore sewing factory) is most often knelt midships beneath the gunwhale line. If you were either to have a tailor tailor for Taylor a matching chemise to coordinate (Coordinate? Whose eyes are up to such a task? Timothy Leary’s dead!) your upper ensemble with the Palette of Pantelunacy Pow (Roy’s ghost speaks) go’n on in the bilges, or perhaps (though in a Voyager it would be a tenuous action at best) take a stand to stage a short term uprising, I’m sure the oncoming Danzi of dangerous dart would be forced into a left hard rudder, the helmsman hurlin’, “Hail Marys Full of Grace” into space, and “forgive me fathers,” as they seek avoidance from their own personal apocalypse (and “Jesus!”) within that mirage of maelstrom meets radioactive “collide-I-scope” dead ahead.

Or, on a semi-more-sensible note, maybe you might just go, as others indicate, with fly’n some other colors?

On that red Voyager thing - I’ve often wondered, whilst serenely paddling in said particular species near shoreline of the Liberty Reservoir (in my own chromatic haunts of Baltimore), why some skiffs and bass boats, allowed only of electric motors and 8-to-10 mph maximum speed, seem to steer a beeline into my midships and quartering directions, till they curl off at a distance of 50 to 80 feet. Perhaps the greenish-brown waters and forest backdrop make me but a shoreline extension of reddish-tan clay to be investigated for lurking smallies? From what I’ve seen, and it is rare-but-there on those waters of the reservoir, a blue canoe (in a vivid, “Hawaiian” hue) seems to jump out to the eye, whether against the dark piney backdrop or emerald and sun-glared lake surface.

But, out on wider waters I’m familiar with, like the broad Susquehanna and the Chesapeake Bay, when it’s low to the horizon and charging dead on at you, all shapes and colors seem to me to be but grayish tickles inside horizon vapors, and I imagine I must appear the same to any set of eyes in those missiles approaching. I guess out there, where no one can hear you scream, it’s more of a, “Paddle Faster! I hear cigarette boats!”

paddle flash
I’ve heard powerboaters say, (and noticed myself) that the most noticeable thing about a kayaker is the paddle flashing overhead. While a canoe has a little more hull visible, that’s within a foot of the water. And a canoe paddle doesn’t flash overhead.

I think our attention is caught by movement a lot more readily than by a nearly still object, so in that way sea kayaks are perhaps easier to spot - with that paddle flashing every second overhead.

Your conclusion is probably right that there was nearly nothing you could do to be seen by this guy. Perhaps the main lesson is to not make assumptions about a boat’s behavior. Just last week, I had to cross a channel with busy sailboat traffic. There was a huge regatta, with yachts passing continuously for 2 hours, often in pretty close succession. We had to cross to get back to the launch, and so I picked the best gap we could, towed a slower member right from the start, and made the crossing at a narrow spot. We easily made it to the nun marking the north side of the channel, and paused outside the channel. I initially assumed that the sailboat heading towards us was required by race rules to stay in channel and go south of the nun. We scrambled a bit when it became clear that the yacht was cutting the buoy. Not too close for comfort, but certainly not ideal either.

I had made an assumption, and that put us closer than necessary to other traffic. The sailboat had no obligation to stay in channel, and it was the stand-on vessel (under sail). We should have continued paddling until we were well clear of all traffic, and not just clear of the channel.

It was a good reminder that we need to paddle defensively. Assume that the boat on the horizon doesn’t see you, and only cross if there’s truly enough time to clear the channel.

My response was to kayakmedic

– Last Updated: Aug-09-11 11:11 AM EST –

who referenced ROW, which isn't really even a term. Stand-On and Give-way are the recognized terms. One could infer from that post that paddlers had automatic Stand-On status, which many wrongly believe they always have over power vessels. You'll note that I also pointed out the poor behavior of the power vessel, which is common,as it is with a lot of recreational boaters. I think the boating safety classes are a good start and very much needed.

BTW, it's not just kayakers who assume Stand-On status incorrectly: