Problems with rec kayaks

Oh, yes,
I really do realize that it will be much more difficult than what I assume it will be, and I, regardless of whether I try open water or not, will practice self-rescues on a quiet lake.

I wanted to try this on the Finger Lakes, I thought that they would be small enough on a calm day to gain experience with the boat without putting myself in serious danger.

I know that I am in NO WAY ready for the surf zone or the open ocean. Is this still sort of foolish?

Best to have someone with you.

– Last Updated: Feb-08-13 6:59 AM EST –

If you have others with you it will reduce dangers significantly. My personal decision is that if I go out alone I stick in places where I can save myself - ie. very close to shore - how far depending on the temperature of the water and my honest assessment of how far I could safely swim to a calm shore. I think it is all about anticipating the things that can go wrong. The better you are at that the safer you will be. When you are new to a sport you are not going to be so good at anticipating the things that can go wrong and so you need to be more careful. There are very serious dangers involved.

Flooded Rec kayak rescue - brutal

– Last Updated: Feb-08-13 9:29 AM EST –

I know a lot of good paddlers read this but have you ever tried to do a flooded rec kayak rescue.? It is virtually 1 notch over impossible - brutal. I've done plenty at symposiums and once that boat filis with water and you have a totally out-of-shape paddler trying to mount the boat, it can tip and re-fill with water etc. It weighs a ton to dump and has a high seat back stabbing the paddler in any attempt to get back in.

I don't care what rating you are or how many stars you have it is super tough.

One time we had a large women capsize and the boat flooded. The paddlers (all trained and strong) trying to get her back in without flooding the boat and we gave up and rafted up and had her laying across our back decks. The third paddler towed us in. And on shore are vendors selling these things with no flotation and the nose of the boat is just visible above the surface.

Adding wind and waves to the equation
You can find a place with strong on-shore waves and some wind and practice rescues there. Make sure there are no hazards. Adding some textured water to the self-rescue makes a lot of difference. I’ve practiced in such conditions (where I would acrually be likely to capsize in the first place) and I can tell you I ran into unplanned problems in the 15 minutes that I practiced, several of which each might have been the end of me had this happened off-shore in cold water. I’m not going to go in details here, but suffice it to say that I could not pop my skirt the normal way for whatever reason (the shape of the cockpit makes it difficult in some cases, so I had to pop it open in an alternative way, which is something you should practice for with a parner next to you anyway), the second was that my paddle float work was less than stellar (kept falling off the paddle due to a silly mistake on my part), and third - my pump frifted away in the strong wind and foamy waves and I lost it alltogether.

I must emphasize that the specific boat I paddled was a BIG part of my problems. It was unstable and hard for me to roll at the time compared to other boats I owned. First of all, I would pretty much never have capsized in similar conditions in my more stable sea kayak. Second, had I capsized in my other sea kayak, I would have almost guaranteed rolled back-up uneventfully. Not with this particular boat - I would capsize and my roll was not bomb-proof in it. Then the boat was hard to re-enter, and once in, too much water inside despite dual bulkheads - makes the boat too heave and hard to handle in the chop while pumping. And, by the time I finish pumping all that water - I was exhausted or would capsize again because the boat was unstable…

So, you have some plusses with your particular boat - it is stable: unlikely to capsize, easier to re-enter. It holds more water and in a self-rescue will take longer to empty (even if you manage to spill out most of the water before you reenter, which is what you should try anyway). I still think, your boat is safer than the fast sea kayak that I mentioned above gave me trouble… Focus on practice and reading and watching instructional videos if you can’t get first-hand instruction. And bomb-proof your roll: it is a lot of fun to roll in a few different ways, not to mention it can be the dffference between just getting your head wet and getting in trouble if you can’t roll up…

Not without compartments!
If you take a rec boat out on open water it better have sealed compartments. I’ve had more than one experience recovering a flooded kayak without bulkheads or flotation. It’s very difficult. With so much water it’s very hard to T-rescue and empty. In a rescue situation I would likely take the victim back to shore and set the kayak adrift. Not something I want to deal with.

Thus the SOT
They self-drain and are easy to climb back on. The downside is weight for the plastic ones. SOT’s may have overtaken rec kayaks in the AmSouth, where the paddling is plentiful and no bloody two-foot snow storms are on the way.

Similar Experience
One time was a young kid at a hot demo day in a big bargey rec-y yellow tub, who was trying to capsize. He succeeded when I was looking the other way.

The kid was easy, he climbed up on my back deck so fast I didn’t feel it. The boat was another matter - I tried three times but the only way that thing was going to empty was with a second or third paddler so we could have it upside down across two boats.

The kid had a great time - he got a paddle in a boat, a ride on a boat (mine) and a swim all in less than a half hour. I had a much better time after someone else offered to tow the big yellow barge back to the launch.

Boat type, skill set and practice all …

– Last Updated: Feb-08-13 3:10 PM EST –

come into play.

Several years ago Marshall of The River Connection conducted a kayak safety demonstration during the AMC Paddlefest at Plum Point on the Hudson River.
For most folks it would have appeared to be just an ideal day. Temperatures were in the upper 70s and sunny. The water temperature was probably somewhere in the low 70s and winds were light. However, by the time of the safety demo the winds had picked-up. We were experiencing a consistent on-shore breeze of 20+ knots and waves up to 1 foot. Well that does not sound too challenging, right?

Marshall carefully and effectively demonstrated several paddle-float reentries using his sea kayak. He did it in his usual professional and relaxed manner, with that rye sense of humor thrown in. Those watching from the beach really had very little
clue to how easy he made it look, particularly with the wind, but they would learn in several minutes. Most participants used their own boats and equipment. As we organized them, before they gave it a try, Marshall suggested to me that we modify
the drill to make it a bit easier for the group. The wind was blowing everything and everybody on to shore. We had half the participants paddle out into about 5' of water while the other half became sea anchors. Each non-paddler held the bow toggle of their partner's boat while the paddler wet-exited and attempted a paddle float re-entry. Most of the 'swimmers' found it very difficult to re-enter, even through their kayaks were being anchored and not blowing about. Others found it impossible. For some of it was lack of practice or balance; for others it was equipment; and for the remainder is was both. No one had what many would consider a 'rec' boat (e.g. 8-10' pungo). All the boats had at least two bulkheads, but many of the kayaks had largish cockpits and at least 24" beams. One or two of the people had a true sea kayak (e.g. ~ 22" beam; 3 bulkheads, lower volume cockpits).

The type of kayak was only only one factor in the equation. One gentlemen I worked with had a 14' kayak with two bulkheads and a roughly 26" beam. It had a relatively large volume cockpit and limited deck rigging aft of the cockpit (e.g. no straps or lines to hold a rigged paddle-float. The guy was fairly athletic, but even with direct coaching and encouragement he could not successfully enter his boat. When full of water his kayak really wallowed in the wind and small waves. He later admitted that although he owned a paddle-float he had never trained with it. Many of the participants came to realize how challenging it would have been to try a similar self-rescue on open water without someone holding onto their kayak. What they did with that knowledge is unclear.

You almost wish SOTs could be a total replacement for your typical cheap & somewhat dangerous rec 'yak and put them on the road to extinction, but that wetter SOT ride + cold water = maybe not. =[

So true
So true Tvcrider, I go kayaking with a couple of different groups and the one group I go with had a a quick rescue class before this event they had planned and I was quite shocked how very few could get back into the kayaks with a assisted rescue let alone a self rescue. Most were in decent sea kayaks too. I sat up on the back deck of my kayak for a better view as I watched this and couldn’t believe how bad they all were. Didn’t help that many were out of shape so no real strength to pull themselves up. Afterwards I mentioned keeping a strap along with there paddle float so they could use it as a step to help get them back up into kayak.

As far as the OP I owned a Perception Conduit 13 for a day as I returned it as I thought it paddled like a barge. There are two others I know that have one now and its ok in small waves (1 footers) but if it flips and fills cockpit with water it stays afloat fine but is very unstable as the cockpit is rather large and holds a ton of water. Seemed like it took forever to pump out. But at least it wont sink.Not a great kayak but ok for what it was made for plus its cheap, Dicks sporting goods sells them for about $550.Its better than the rec kayaks with zero flotation as they just plain sink to just below the surface.

forward speed
When it comes to evaluating your ability to travel through open water, against wind, waves, and currents, forward speed becomes an incredibly important part of that evaluation.

So let’s pretend for a moment that we’re all going to stay in our kayak. We are three equally skilled folks, and we are going to travel against some current, through some surf, and against several miles of 20 knot wind and 4-5’ short period waves along a coastline, and surf back into the destination. One takes a whitewater kayak, because they’re stable and handle waves well. You take your Perception Sport Conduit 13 (13’ x 26.5")). I’ll take a Current Designs Nomad (18’10" x 21.25"), simply because over the years it has remained a favorite long sea kayak design of mine. Now, let’s pretend, just for the sake of argument, that getting to the destination more quickly and with less overall effort is desirable.

Herein lies the essence of a sea kayak in my opinion. If this piece of the performance equation isn’t important to you in your kayaking, then you don’t have to worry about it. There are plenty of paddling platforms to keep you upright in waves. It’s whatever gets you on the water having fun. Staying upright and having the ability to perform rescues in rough water is an important aspect of sea kayak design, but it’s not the primary design consideration, nor is it the primary difference between what’s considered a rec boat and a sea kayak. For some paddlers, a full-on sea kayak doesn’t represent an advantage for their paddling. For others, a sea kayak represents a tremendous advantage.

A few tricks I learned
If you get the rec boat up on it’s side a large portion of the water will drain out without the conventional lifting of a bulkhead kayak. Then grab the stern end and lift that which is lighter than the bow to drain that. Than as the water is rolling around, you try to quickly get it across your deck. You try to do it quickly so all the water doesn’t roll to the stern end. And when you pick it up, you do it sideways so the only water that makes if to the stern can’t be higher than the cockpit side opening.

Even with all that it’s still real tough.

What I have learned.
1. Even though my boat is stable and has two bulkheads and I will be using a spray skirt, it can easily fill with water in a wet exit and it may not be possible to pump it out.

Solution: Stay close enough to shore to return in event of this.

2. Practice very, very much, and even so do not push my limited abilities.

Solution: Stay close to shore and take a buddy, maybe in a rowboat.

3. Actual skills, especially in wave action, will be much harder to accomplish than I think.

Solution: Stay close to shore and practice very much with a buddy on calm water.

4. My kayak is not perfect, but will work if I take the proper precautions.

Solution: Do not encounter conditions above my skill level in any boat, especially this one.

I apologize for my initial ignorance, and for the fact that I am perhaps not taking the dangers seriously enough. I believe that I am, though, and thank you all so very much for your help. I WILL be very careful.

Just one fix

– Last Updated: Feb-10-13 11:09 AM EST –

FWIW, it is usually easiest to empty out and stabilize a kayak for re-entry by someone in another kayak. You can mix boat types and still have it work, but it takes more practice to get that down than working from two kayaks with dual bulkheads (or equivalent effect with bow and stern bags in terms of water displacement).

I would suggest that you keep an eye out for a buddy who also has a kayak with decent flotation at each end, then mess with assisted rescues on a nice hot day after watching videos.

To get a sense of how easy this can be if everyone is properly equipped, boats and skills, the typical assessment standard is to hit 2 minutes or less from capsize to the paddler back in an emptied kayak and with skirt on. Having one higher sided boat can complicate things in unexpected ways. They are perfectly solvable - but typically take more practice to get down.

spray skirt

– Last Updated: Feb-11-13 5:14 PM EST –

If you haven't already done so, practice a few wet exits before leaving shore with a spray skirt. While usually it is hard to keep a skirt on a rec. kayak from popping off when upside down, you don't want to be the exception.


Ok, thank you!

Just a quick thought on paddling buddy
AD, yes, it’s usually safer to paddle with a buddy – or two. But it’s worth remembering: you’re only safer with a buddy if that person is competent. Not expert but just competent.

Also, here’s a quickie rescue that can be done when it looks too hard to get someone back in their recboat – or when they don’t have the upper-body strength to get back in even when a partner has emptied their boat. You can have a swimmer wrap his/her arms and legs around your bow and you can paddle the person to shore. In some cases this will be quicker and less exhausting than the alternatives. And just about anyone can do it – as the swimmer or the rescuer – I think. Not a panacea. But an option. Good to have more than one!

I find it hard to believe in self-rescue
of any of my canoes or kayaks out on a lake or the ocean. I put my trust in cumulative experience and judgement regarding wind and weather conditions. When in doubt, don’t go far out.

The cockpit of my Necky touring kayak is kinda small, but I’m not. Entering that cockpit while stepping off from shore is already an exercise in leg threading, so the idea of re-entering in a paddle float rescue does not inspire trust or a sense of purpose. I’ve rolled kayaks, and I will learn to roll that one, or get by on judgement.

As for canoes, my observations in Quetico and Killarney suggest that your basic unwashed tandem canoeists are not turning turtle very often at all. I guess they’re getting by on judgement, too, because I’ve been out on those lakes in whitecaps, and at the time, it wasn’t skill. So let’s dismiss the notion that most tandem paddlers know how to self-rescue, much less that they do it.

Wanna see me roll my c-1?

definitely about practice
Every day I paddle I roll a few times and about every three or four days on the water I do a few cowboy and re-enter and rolls at the end of the paddle. On our few rough water days we always spend time in the water doing rescues for fun and practice. You can’t just do a couple of club practice sessions a season and think you have it.