sea kayak self-rescue device

I was thinking again about self-recovery in a canoe far from shore, which led me to think again about tideplay’s thread on reconsidering sponsons for sea kayak self-rescue and injured paddlers, and both led to the same idea - what about a rescue device that you carry strapped to the sides of your boat that, on flipping a switch, self-inflated two largish bags.

Suppose you’re seasick and your sea kayak sea-flips for the last time. You have no more energy to roll, and you’re not even sure which way is up. Even in your wet suit, you need to get out of the water soon, because it may be hours before rescue arrives and can help.

So you reach inside the capsized kayak and flip the inflate switch. The two bags inflate. The kayak is still upside down but will continue to float, thanks to sealed air compartments (which the kayak must have for the scheme to work best). However, with the two bags attached, there is enough stability and surface area for you to crawl up on top and lay across the bags and boat, mostly out of the water, and wait for help or for a slight return of energy, at which point you can do a little more to help yourself.

On the side of each bag, there is a strap long enough to reach around the kayak and the other bag. There is also a switch, reachable either from the top or bottom, that releases the clamps holding the bags to the side of the cockpit. The purpose of this apparatus is to allow you or, better, helpers to run two straps around the bags and boat and detach the bags from firm attachment to the boat. This would allow you to deal with rough seas of virtually any degree, by using the combined craft like an open raft, and then when seas have calmed somewhat, allowing you to turn the boat upright within the two bags, whereupon you can access your gear or bail out the boat and reenter for greater warmth and comfort.

There is the little matter, in rough seas, of staying attached to the raft and staying predominantly on the sky-facing half of it. Perhaps true rescue rafts (the open kind, not the enclosed) could give some hint there, but I presume the best option is a firm attachment by a strap fixed around your chest or upper leg. This does present dangers of injury and entanglement, but in circumstances where losing the raft would seem to lead to inevitable death, the risks may be justified. To allow movement from side to side as each becomes uppermost, the personal retainer strap should attach to the side of one float bag and be pretty long.

An EPIRB could be attached to one of the bags. The bags (when inflated) should display bright colors best calibrated to stand out at sea, providing another benefit versus a stand alone kayak – easier for rescuers to spot. Each bag (in case they are torn apart from the boat n ) should be shaped and accoutered to serve as a stand alone flotation aide that will lift the upper torso, at least, out of the water.

If really serious, and for situations…
… that could get that bad, better to have one of these:

Be sure to check out the link to “Additional Pictures”. Only one, but sort of brings it home…

Pricey, but nothing complicated or cobbled together, packs really small, high vis, etc. Be a lot easier than trying to stay in a kayak cockpit, more comfortable/less effort, safer.

Might have to ditch the kayak/canoe as it could become a hazard in textured water (unless you were smart enough to have and deploy a sea anchor/drogue from the kayak, and then and long line the kayak to your raft…).

Seen simpler/cheaper ones too, but like I said, if you are serious about solo paddling far offshore…

Hey I could make one of those!
some 8 ox pvc , a sponson from folbot or two and you are gtg.


have to blow it up yourself though…

too expensive
As you say, that’s an existing product, and I don’t know any kayakers who have one, probably due to the cost - $700 versus $100-150 for my suggestion (both before EPIRB cost, if that option is chosen).

Also, using the liferaft pretty much requires a decision to give up the kayak and any fellow kayakers. (Your long line/sea anchor suggestion is a good one for a regular storm, but if you enter “confused seas”, there’s still the risk of the kayak beating you to death in your raft-coccoon.) Thus if conditions go from worse to a little better, you have no other options than to continue to wait for rescue. Also, you lose the supplies in you kayak.

Still, the liferaft has a number of advantages. Here’s an idea if you want to spend the money for a more perfect solution - how about a life raft that is built into the kayak, and self-inflates around you in the cockpit. You start out looking like a regular sea kayak, then you push the emergency button and 4 or 5 chambers inflate and then you look like one of those things, but with a kayak nose and tail sticking out.

Just brainstorming ideas, no need to be a hater :slight_smile:

Brain storming
Since this is all supposition, why not just an inflatable bladder on the rear deck. It would get you to 90 degrees without a bailout and could be CO2 with a pull cord. Pull the cord and hug the front deck. Or just go talk to the “Sponson Guy”.

That may be a germ of an idea for a slightly different but related circumstance, all those various cases where people are concerned that they might not be able to complete a roll. I’m not sure if a single bag on the deck would get you to a stable 90-degrees, but surely some combination of bags could.

Hey, you sea kayakers, if you could push a button on a device and have your boat complete the first half of a roll for you, would that make you more confident of being able to successfully complete the roll in a “bombproof” manner? What would you be willing to pay for such a device?

Value of getting to 90° - $0
Not being a hater, being realistic. If you can’t get yourself from 180 to 90, you won’t be getting from 90 to 0 (or staying there). If such a jiffy pop device is used to prevent going 180 again after inflation, it makes for more sail area to deal with.

Gear is not the answer for this (and this 90 degree issue is also different than needs when severely seasick, injured, exhausted…) but since you’re gear focused, have you seen the Roll Aid BackUp device? I’m not a big fan (of any gear crutches that can give false confidence), but at least it is compact, simple, and works (once, anyway, whatever that gets you).

Well, you typically get what you pay…
… for with gear, and more than you bargained for from the sea.

To your other points: Staying in the cockpit, in a kayak that is getting tossed around up on top of the waves (and likely getting regularly pinned in the troughs and taking a lot of it on beam), with or without a jiffy pop option, will also beat snot out of you if things are rough. Remember, you said sick or injured person - riding this out for hours.

paddle floats and storm paddle
jam it through the back deck rigging and attach paddle float to each end.

stirrup to get back in if you can’t do it yourself

all fits behind the seat.

cheap, easy, reusable, done.


Now factor in…

– Last Updated: May-30-09 1:22 PM EST –

... various sea states and lengths of time.

Can be hard to keep floats on a paddle, particularly on a GP for the long term. Then the increased effective beam can have you pitching around more. This can really stress the deck hardware (and if deck hardware is really solid - as with some kayaks with dedicated straps for this) the paddle then takes the stress.

Easy and simple yes, but seems more of a good short term tool in smallish waves and/or smooth swells (or on large South American Rivers...).

Have you tried this P-float rescue and outrigger stuff in waves? Even 2-3' gets interesting. Much over that and you'd best use the float for R&R type recovery (though even with float R&R you have that damn float to deal with once upright) as you would be really hard pressed to set up outriggers without the kayak landing on your head, and the outriggers begin create their own problems if you do get them in place.

Stirrups? Another can 'o worms... and another reason to learn at least R&R w float.

PS - only multiple posting on this stuff because of cabin fever. Seems like it's been continuous waves of T-Storms here for like a week. Haven't paddled and carport's been getting to wet/windy to carve most of the time (an skeeters are again prolific and HUNGRY).

I'll paddle in rain (like to some days), and with T-storms nearby (sort of have to here) but these have been stronger stuff and both roll through and pop up so can't use radar to time gaps to get stuff done very well. Rainy season sort of sucks. Missing Winter...

funny reasoning
your technical solution is for a fubar situation waiting for rescue,and your life isn’t worth $750. My $.02 is that in a fubar situation a person won’t be able to lay on top of a slippery hull. At some point in your problem solving you’ll get to the realization that a kayak is more like a pair of shoes than a boat where gear is added incrementally for conditions.

drats, it’s been done
Yeah, that roll-aid thing is it exactly, so it’s been done. Oh, well, I thought kfsrmn had a good idea there, but somebody else is already in the market.

You know, that’s the problem with being born so late. I’ve had lots of great ideas in my life, only to find that Franklin or Galileo or Edison or somebody beat me to them…

Anyhow, yeah, that was a different situation from the sick paddler in rough water that I started out with. That’s what happens wheh you’re brainstorming, sometimes the idea that works is only tangentially related to what you start with.

Anyhow #2, I think we’ve got our product name - the Jiffy Pop. I like it, greyak.

just timing
Naw, it’s just that the decision to spend $750 comes when your life is only prospectively in danger. If the life boat salesman could show up when your life was actively in danger, he could have profit margins wider than Microsoft.

On the other items, both you and greyak make some good points. I think they can be dealt with and alleviated somewhat in the detailed development of the product, so I don’t think they are deal killers.

On the more general criticisms, I plead guilty – this is an attempt to impose a gear solution on a fundamentally non-gear problem. I think it’s like car safety – I’m looking for seat belts and air bags to add on to a finely crafted pair of shoes that is a good sea kayak.

(By the way, I am a long time car aficionado and a self-described excellent driver, and I HATE seat belts and air bags. I’m not convinced that they make me any safer, because of the way I drive and the great amount of skill I put into it, and so I often don’t use them. However, I can’t argue with the statistics that prove they are life-savers for average drivers.)

I was just stirring the pot



hopefully in salt water way offshore tomorrow!

it’s possible to rationalize anything
Gotta say if you’re able to dismiss airbags and seatbelts why are you thinking of kayak safety devices?

seat belts and airbags
Why “dismiss” seat belts and airbags in cars?

Because both can interfere with driver actions at a critical time. Yet I do admit they save lives, when used regularly by the general driving population, and so I think they should be available for optional use.

Why interested in finding tools to save lives in sea kayaks?

Because available kayak safety tools appear to be way behind available car safety tools. I’d like to see more and cheaper optional life-saving tools for paddle sports.

Apples and Elephants
Comparing kayak safety methods and equipment to automotive safety device is about as logical as comparing skegs/rudders to computerized aircraft fly by wire control systems.


ur rite

– Last Updated: May-30-09 9:05 PM EST –

A death is a death, whether by sea or land.

And a meal is a meal to a hungry man, whether a half-dozen apples or an elephant steak.

So, yeah, I guess you're right again :)

Edit: I was talking about apples and elephants above. As far as the skeg-wire and fly-by-wire, I don't see any valid comparison, so I guess you're wrong there. Sorry, but you know it had to happen one day :(

better idea
paddle a Pachena

More likely…
… you just don’t understand fly by wire systems.