Rec Boat Safety

I just read a discussion on another paddling forum about how unsafe Rec boats are as far as self rescue is involved and wondered how I could maximize the floatation of my OT Loon 138 to help make it as safe as possible. Any thoughts or experiences with this appreciated.

post subject
Use float bags in the bow and stern.

… carry self rescue equipment.

My experience…

– Last Updated: Oct-19-05 7:13 PM EST –

At one time, I owned two OT Loon 138s(experimenting with the dark side); they were used by myself & my wife on class 1 rivers, and small lakes, paddling with friends who also owned rec kayaks.
I never accidentally capsized one, but did capsize one on purpose in deep water/without flotation), just to see what it would be like to self rescue. I tried re-entering the boat, pumping out a lot of water & paddling to shore with the boat partially full of water. Then I tried swimming it to shore as quickly as possible, with no attempt to remove any water. In my opinion it was "much" easier to re-enter & pump it out before making any attempt to get to shore. A 138 will hold "a lot of water"! I immediately bought the biggest flotation bags I could find, and put them in my wife's boat. She is not nearly as strong a swimmer as I am; thus my concern for her safety.
We kept our friends; we sold the Loons. Shortly thereafter our friends also sold their kayaks; a Loon 138 and a Loon 120. Everyone now paddles solo canoes; we are all a lot happier.
I truly believe I can get a 17 foot, 75 lb., aluminum, Grumman canoe to shore faster after a capsize than I can a Loon 138 with no flotation. If you're going to keep the Loons & take them out on lakes I suggest you get "big" air bags. Do a "test capsize"; I think you'll understand why after you do.


P.S. NOC & NRS both have a good selection of flotation bags that would be suitable. Old Town probably sells them too.

In addition to the float bags & equip,
take some lessons and learn how to self rescue. Then take some more lessons to learn how to keep yourself upright in the first place.

All the equip in the world won’t help if you haven’t learned to use it.

Then keep practicing what you learned in the classes.

tough to flip
a rec. boat , but on rivers its easier, due to obsticles. As mentioned , float bags and try to self recover.

Second on the practice
Any re-entry can get complicated unless you’ve practiced it. You’d think an assisted rescue wouldn’t create any problems - unless you find out that the rescuee can’t lift their lower body over the rear deck without assistance (hand or a stirrup) like some women, or the rescuee forgets that their tow belt is facing forward and catching on the big red foam float on the back deck (that was me the first time after I started wearing the tow belt)…

You can encounter exactly the same problems with a paddle float self rescue, just made a little more complicated by having to balance yourself over the paddle while these other things are going on. Best to find these things out n practice.

I’m with TheBob on this
Rec kayaks simply are not made to facilate self rescue. I tried the same things as TheBob, (even with the 14 foot Grumman).

I use floatation and a 100 foot safty line. Swim to safty with the line and pull my Acadia in from there.

Float Bags Crucial

– Last Updated: Oct-23-05 7:35 AM EST –

as already discussed, otherwise self-rescue is near impossible in any wind or chops. The water will just keep coming over the cockpit. You'll need a pump as well, though with the open cockpit a small plastic pail may be just as fast and cheaper. Keep the pail tethered or you'll find it floating away...

Float bags - get the largest you can to fill up as much unused cockpit space. You can always roll up the smaller end and tape it so it doesn't get inflated if you have alot of gear. However, a smaller bag can't get bigger. Pumping and bailing can be tiring, especially if you've fallen in and feel the chill coming on. The less to pump and bail, the better.

I had a Loon 138 and a Pamlico as my first two kayaks. I think they are great recreational/fishing boats in calmer waters. However, if you decide to go onto any large body of waters with the wind driving chops, they become a higher risk. The type of kayaking I wanted to do changed, so I got rid of both boats for others.


Practice, Practice, Practice
self-rescue techniques whether you’re in a rec boat, a sea 'yak, or canoe. If you don’t practice you WILL lose that EDGE and it could cost you.

BTW: If you have an indoor pool you use for winter roll practice, why not incorporate self-rescue practice into your routine?

Stay safe on the water


So what is the issue with recreational kayaks being bad for self-rescue. Is it simply the floatation issue? I’d like to read the thread on the other board if the original person would post it.