These situations can undoubtedly stir up controversy, but they do make you think about different things.
One of the things that grabbed my attention is the difference between this and the recent story of the man who paddled back out after his wife after bringing their daughter to shore.
In this story, they realize one is missing after making it to shore. This is a pretty good indicator that they were all needing to put all attention towards their own survival. Do you risk your own safety attempting to help someone if you believe it’s beyond your ability, but you otherwise may be able to get yourself to safety? Everything depends, but I have certainly heard, read, and understand a stance of ensuring everyone’s safety who is not in trouble first. The other two made it to shore, were aware of and so able to communicate the situation if needed. The 3rd capsized paddler had enough thermal protection to communicate and survive. If one of them were confident enough to keep an eye on the others, perform a rescue and contact tow or regular tow, I bet that’s what they would have done. If they were not capable, I think they did the right thing.
The other story had Dad paddling back out to save Mom after returning their daughter to shore. Neither Dad nor Mom was able to make it back. It’s hard to 2nd guess his decision either really, although 20/20 hindsight dictates he should have gone with his daughter to call for outside assistance.
I remember a day paddling out in an inlet where the person to the left of me got backsurfed by the outer break, capsized, and swam out. I remember cringing as I watched the person to the right of me stop and turn their kayak towards the capsized individual. Sure enough, the next wave capsized him and he swam out too. Life is so much less complicated with only one needing assistance. It’s not the time to prove beyond a doubt that it’s beyond your ability. What he was attempting was never going to be possible. The outer break was going to sweep you in sitting broadside to the waves no matter what you did or how good you are. As soon as he turned his kayak that way, it was over. He just didn’t have the experience to realize it. It was a good reinforcement of my belief that you should get yourself and everyone else in the group to a place where they are confidently in control of themselves first. Stop the progression of dominos falling before attempting to set the first one back up.
What do y’all think?
The incident with the dad, wife and kid was a near parallel to how multiple people end up drowning when one gets caught by a rip tide. Usually everyone paddling together in a family is equally lacking in knowledge of how to handle a rip. The only good solution is what people know before they ever get into the water.
What jumps out at me with the situation in Bellingham was that the two folks who did not capsize were reported to not know they were missing anyone until they landed. Either the report is lacking or the guy who capsized was better prepared to keep his wits about him in an emergency than the two who made it in. I don’t really know what to think with this one, not enough info.
Dressed in cold water gear (would probably have preferred a drysuit), and had a radio and knew how to use it. This guy was more prepared than others, and is probably still alive because of it. Good for him.
Very glad this guy was adequately prepared and able to rescue himself, since his paddling buddies certainly weren’t!
Maybe it’s because I used to lead tours, but when I paddle in a group I am constantly checking to make sure everyone is accounted for. It is really important in a group to stay as a group, but some people have a very hard time with this concept. When I did lead tours I would always make this point clear before we got on the water but several times had to go chasing people who thought they had a better idea of where to go than I did.
But a very good lesson to not only be prepared for the conditions, but also be prepared to self rescue even if you aren’t paddling alone!
46° F I’d never be in a wetsuit in open body of water
kudos to the Coast Guard.
- they got to him in time
- they FOUND him in time
not mentioned in article:
- why didn’t he roll
- why couldn’t he self rescue
- assisted rescue not available because mates were on shore
- Coast Guard near last option - but they showed up
Puget Sound is 55 degrees in summer. It has a mild climate and people paddle all year. The smart ones dress for immersion. People paddling kayaks die every year in that country. Don’t be one of them.
I paddled the San Juan Islands in early Sept. Warm weather but wet suits were necessary because of the water temperature. Get used to it. Wear clothes under the neoprene.
How do you manage to wear clothes “under” your neoprene? I have to stretch mine on. Are you just getting it a few sizes too big? And doesn’t that defeat the fact that it’s supposed to be tight enough to prevent flushing?
If you have a loose fitting wet suit you would be warmer if you can get another layer of neoprene underneath, like a 1 mm top. That being said it is not a good strategy, because the suit is too loose fitting otherwise… I’ve tested wearing fleecy thermal underwear under a tight fitting wet suit and it is not really very effective in keeping me significantly warmer in the water, maybe a little bit. I sometimes use a rash guard with a loosing fitting suit. The best way I stay warm in a wet suit is to use a suit that is designed for the water temperatures, and do not use a farmer john, they are terrible in really cold water. Also in really cold places I have used a semi dry top over a wet suit, and it does keep you warmer especially when exposed to wind etc.
The reason they found him in time was that he had a PLB and apparently a VHF radio with a DSC locator function. I couldn’t find any information as to whether or not he was still holding onto his boat.
One USCG report said that he was wearing a drysuit rather than a wetsuit.
Picture looks like a wetsuit and a jacket.
If you are referring to Erik Eckilson, probably not. I’m more of a drysuit guy, and don’t look that fit in a wetsuit.
Surfers out in the winter in wetsuits always amaze me - I can’t imagine being in that cold water in a wetsuit, at least not my wetsuit.
I’ve only been in one situation when the group broke up and we lost a paddler – Lake Umbagog on the ME/NH border. We were a group of 3 people in two boats. I was with my buddy Bill in a tandem canoe. The third was Earl - a competent paddler in a sea kayak. (I know, two boats does not a safe group make - mistake number 1.)
We were crossing from Taylor Point to Pine Tree Point – about a mile. We were heading north and the wind was blowing from the northwest creating challenging crosswinds and 2-foot waves. When Bill and I completed the crossing we looked back and saw Earl quite far behind. We pulled around the point to get out of the wind and wait for him to catch up (mistake number 2).
After a few minutes we climbed out on Pine Point to see how Earl was progressing, but there was no sign of him. We paddled back around the point, yelled for him, blew our whistles but still no sign of him. We paddled along the shore all the way back to Tyler Point to see if he stopped for a break or retraced his steps - nothing.
At this point we were in a panic. We didn’t have radios (mistake number 3), but we did have cell phones so we tried to call him – no answer (phone was in his dry bag). If we had a third boat we could have sent someone ahead to see if we somehow missed him, but we didn’t have a third boat.
At this point there was nothing left to do but call the rangers and have them check out next site. After what seemed like forever we got a call from Earl telling us that he was at the next campsite. He had pulled over the take a break (not sure how we missed him), and continued on when he didn’t find us at the point. Bill and I were relieved, but now faced a third crossing to Pine Point alone.
In hind site, we should have prearranged with each other how we were going to communicate if we got separated (mistake number 4), but who thought we would get separated. It is amazing how easy it is to get yourself into a difficult situation.
And how hard to get out of a difficult situation, if even possible.
What were you wearing when this happened?
Nope, Erik here is a Norwegian Surf Blogger. The thing that gets me with really cold water is the water in the face, so cold it makes the bones in your head hurt, and you gasp no matter how much you train. I tried a suggestion of using vasoline on my face in North Sea, did not help.
I learned about wet suits from surfing. Then later we started water skiing and wake boarding in mountain lakes in late March and went until November. We were in and out of the water all the time. You are right about the face. A full head covering still leaves the face exposed. For boarding and skiing we could mostly keep the head above water. Rafting on the Truckee River in March the normal water temp is 42-44 degrees.
I bought a ski boat from a guy and he insisted on demo ing the boat even though it was February. He put on a full 4mm wet suit with some clothes under it. It was a modern neoprene suit that barely let in any water. He went over the side and made a regular run. I bought the boat.