Kayak Towing & Rescue

6’ Footer on Saturday Morning …
Forecast by the way was for knee high waves …


I totaly agree…my fault

– Last Updated: Jul-30-08 12:15 AM EST –

Why not respond? It was definitly my fault. But I did my best to be calm and do the right thing. He simply just kept letting go. But no matter, I should not have let him paddle out that far. Thats why I didnt let him pay for the tow. I felt bad for not having the proper knowledge or experience towing and letting him paddle out.

sounds challenging
he must have been panicked.

same here
with 2’ waves outside

sounds like
in that particular area they were bigger than the bouy measurment another poster provided but the tops weren’t breaking or anything. It’s great isn’t it? Riding over moving hills of water. My exposed coast experience isn’t great, paddled a few dozen places on the Ca. coast. One time coming inside the Potato Patch outside the Golden Gate on a relatively calm day but with signficant swells it was like riding on city block sized hills of water.

I have been following this with some
interest, since last winter, a group of us, (all experienced paddlers) got caught off shore in a unexpected blow up.

You ask “share the knowledge please”

The “washing machine” that we got caught in had only three footers at a maximum, and I am guessing the average was about two feet.

I can’t imagine any “average” experienced paddler wanting to go out in six foot waves unless they are playing in the surf, and at six footers it would have to be a expert paddler.

So number one: Never take a novice paddler out in rough water. That was your first mistake.

On the tow: On the trip that I mentioned above, I won’t go into details, but we had to tow a guy two miles and with none of us panicking, we just tied about a 20’ line to the grab handle of the tow boats stern and to the bow handle of the boat being towed, and there was no problem at all, (perhaps a prayer or two of thanks when we reached shore).

I know there are tow belts and various means of towing, but my advice for you or any other kayaker is to keep about a twenty foot length of line in a handy place on your boat.

It not only serves as a safety device, but comes in handy for tying your boat to a dock, tree or whahtever.

Man I can’t visualize any one going out in 8 foot waves !



group dynamics
it’s funny what happens when grownups play. It’s easy for the inner 11yr old to come out and follow the leader dynamics take over,where the leader is whoever is in front heading into adventure.

Seems to happen in every activity, what’s the plan, where are we going, what are we bringing, what can happen, is there a way out or escape route if we have to cut things short, etc.

When I just started paddling I bought a glass boat, worked parttime in a kayak shop, had never done a self or assisted rescue although I was paddling off the coast of Santa Barbara. And I was putting together a trip for my brother and sister in Baja. My wet-suit was one I found in the kelp beds that was just beginning to grow animals. We rented plastic boats for my brother and sister in San Diego, my sister was the only one who had taken lessons. So we drive for two days to LA bay 2/3 down Baja on the Sea of Cortez side. The day before we head out I say,you know, we should practice some rescues before we paddle to the island tomorrow. See, not a total idiot, we’re planning! The water is colder than S.B. because of a local upwelling of deep water, wetsuits required. And I got an eyeopener, “damn,it’s cold and I don’t want to do this in waves”.

So the next day we head out fully loaded, cases of beer and water needed for five days. See, not total idiots.

As we’re heading out I look at my brother and say

“you know, this reads just like those accident reports in Sea kayaker magazine”


20’ length of line
that’s what I would attach to the bow of my own boat as painter. Towing stern to bow kind of screws with the towing boats ability to turn or hold a prefered course to wind/waves. My basic habit is to have a tow belt if I’m in a group.

maybe your friend
will want to practice all the basics on a smaller lake?

I really enjoy going down to a warm lake and practicing rolling and bracing… it’s a good work out… i even rigged up a bicycle tube to a post and can pull on that to help build up my bracing strength…

I also witnessed someone panic when he got stuck under a kayak… it was both of our first day, so Im glad it happened to him and not me. No matter how athletic someone looks don’t assume they will remember to get the spray skirt off if they haven’t practiced it before.

Not being an expert, that’s just what I noticed.

A friend was also teaching him and shouldn’t have let him put on the spray skirt. And that guy did well to remember to pull it off after going into a panic.

listening to the little voice “…”
“i’m not too sure about this place”

“I’m not too sure about this persons skills”

“I don’t think everyone is on the same page, better double check”

“my friend is a bit worried about…”

Maximium height, not average

Maximum, not average. They also
measure peak to trough.


General comments

– Last Updated: Jul-30-08 12:17 PM EST –

Not going to argue about wave heights - lake waves can be pretty steep compared to longer ocean swells, so even shorter stuff can be a little more daunting in how it feels.

That said, a few random comments after reading the whole thread:
Your idea of having him in the water, holding onto both boats, and paddling both of you in would likely not have worked. His body would have been a sea anchor effectively and you would have cumulatively been blown the same way the boat went. And you would have been one tired paddler, maybe gone beyond your own ability to be safe.
In that scenario, the only way I can see to get him in without his boat is for him to be on your front deck, or maybe back depending on the boat and your comfort zone, or have him actively help by swimming. Neither is a great idea 3/4 mile from shore in conditions though. The lifeguards may have been your ultimate save no matter what.

You indicate some lack of knowledge about what the buoy readings mean. I am guessing that you aren't an avid listener to marine forecasts, and maybe don't carry a VHF/weather radio. I'd suggest that you acquire those habits before venturing out in bigger water like Lake Erie.

You shouldn't consider towing anyone or anything until you have obtained a decent tow belt and practiced with it. It can take a little while to figure out how to handle that weight pulling against you.

There is a rule of three that many people use for going out in conditions - have no less than three people - because as you found out it can easily take two people to handle one capsize. My husband and I were in a situation where it actually took three people for one capsize because the conditions were difficult. You may want to keep this in mind for future such paddles, but that still means three people who have and can use a tow belt safely. So in general you may need to expand your paddling circle before putting any more newbies into boats in such conditions.

Where are you along Lake Erie? There are places like Braddock Bay Kayaking that may be a relatively near spot for you to get sme gear and some training, as well as hook up with other bigger water paddlers.

Point Lobos and the Patch, what a
place that is. Great times there.


it’s in my head

– Last Updated: Jul-30-08 12:25 PM EST –

"wow,,this is totally different,,nothing is breaking so it's OK,,just keep breathing"

and the little voice says " it's alive, I'm on a giant animal, I hope it doesn't wake up, shh, keep quiet"

then there was the moment we started to turn and paddle with the waves towards the Bridge,,they were going too fast for me to surf down and I DIDN"T want to but then I swiveled my head around for general bearing fix and check on my paddling buddies and my immmediate feeling was "OMFG.....breathe...." for my 2'-4' comfort zone seeing something UP THERE above the horizon coming my way was a trip like getting to the top of a roller coaster and you realize how much of a drop you're about to have,,except this was how much of a rise you were about to get,,"elevator UP"

It’s an awesome experience when one
gets to ride on some of nature’s great natural forces. I just don’t do hurricanes, though.


I recently performed a tow on Lake Erie
with my northwater. It was at the South Bass Island Rendezvous, after a ten mile paddle up to and around middle bass, I came across a stranded punk on a jet ski blowing his whistle like he was at a Swedish disotech. I could not ignore his deliberate use of a safety signaling device and paddled over to him. He had nothing but a pfd, a whistle, and a broken jet ski. 200 yards later I felt as though I had towed Middle Bass Island and not so much as a thank you! He actually was pissed that I would not tow him to Put- In-Bay! Next time I get the radio out and call a tow, problem was he probably did not have money for gas, let alone a tow.

For you ocean guys…You have to paddle lake Erie in a blow to know just how F’d up it can be. Lake St. Clair is almost as bad. In this case it sounds like a predictable direction and period, but often it is more like a washing machine. Relative to the ocean there is practically no height, but also practically no period. It is one on top of the other and often from multiple directions (rebounds and boat wakes). Same rules and precautions apply, but the Great Lakes have a different wave action/experience. Bill

Me too!!
Just following this thread with some interest.

Glad you and your friend came out OK Heidt.

A couple of the posters seemed to think Lake Erie is not capable of generating 8 ft waves however any of the Great Lakes can produce much bigger than that under the right conditions…I’ve witnessed them myself and also seen the huge boulders and massive trees tossed way way up on shore along Superior and Lake Huron by storms.

Speaking of towing stories here is a link to a trip report written by me of an incident that happened this spring on Lake Erie outlining our mistakes and triumphs on that day.

I think Heidt can relate to our predicament.


How many feet were the waves that day?

LOL …well I’m not going to get into that debate…suffice to say they were big enough to intimidate us enough to get the adrenaline flowing.

Safe paddling


No dissing the lakes, they sink ships.
Respect the sea. The point is, accurate assessment of conditions gives a benchmark for more reliable ability to judge whether to put in, or not, on another day. I have no dog in the discussion to bet on what Heidt experienced, other than if he is not accurate on assessing conditions on one day and strays into those that are 6-8 feet on another the outcome may be not what he wants it to be. That’s all, no rock throwing from inside my own glass house.


Heidt, you email does not work.
Hi Heidt,

I tried to send to an email several times via the paddling.net interface, both where returned.

Could you check your profile.