Self-rescue deciding issue

Really want to get into kyacking fishing in the tidal bay near my home, but I’m 80 years old and am not sure I can self-rescue using either the scramble method or the paddle float. Haven’t tried to do either, but my research and advice from a friend advises that even in calm practice sessions, it’s strenuous. Under real conditions, it’s another story for sure. I am experienced flat-water/slow river canoeist, I am in decent shape for an old guy and very active. I still bow hunt and spend time in the woods, do my own lawn, etc. That being said, my common sense tells me, as do others, that if I can’t self-rescue, then maybe I ought to give up on the idea of kyacking. I really want to do it but I have to be realistic-maybe it’s too late to start. Any thoughts, advice, or suggestions from anyone would be appreciated.

Are you able to find someone else to paddle with that can perform a “scoop” rescue? This is typically taught as a method to get an unconscious or semi-conscious swimmer back into a boat, and can be done by one other paddler. If done well, they don’t even need to have a particular amount of strength.

Just a thought. I commend your consideration of the issues at hand and hope you are able to find a way that’s safe for you and others.

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Don’t give up! But find someone to go with you .

Are you a pretty good swimmer or maybe willing to do a little more,pool,swimming to make sure you are? If so maybe you could get a nice stable sit on top fishing kayak and stay close enough to shore so that you could easily swim to shore in an emergency. The important part about self rescue is being able to rescue yourself…you can always just abandon the boat.

83 years old here and long time canoe and kayak paddler.

Here is my take : If you can swim and can hold onto a kayak if you were to capsize then by all means try kayaking.
Many years ago I took a roll class and at the end of the session was able to do it, but never did one after that. Then once a year I would set up a day where I practiced self rescue. I stopped doing that about ten years ago, but probably would be able to do one now although it wouldn’t be pretty.
With all that said, I don’t leave home without my water proof VHF radio. I don’t know where you live, but in almost any place along the coast ( you said a tidal bay) the coast guard can pick you up in an emergency.
If you are comfortable in your kayak, pay attention to the weather, keep an eye out for crazy power boaters, keep well out of the shipping or boating channels you should never have to worry about capsizing. If however you did and can’t do a self rescue, just hang onto the yak and swim it to shore. If you are too far from land just call the coast guard on your VHF.

If you are comfortable in your canoe, there is no reason not to be comfortable in your kayak.

I strongly suggest that you rent or try some prior to running out a buying something that you might not be right for you.

Perhaps if you posted where you live, someone here might be able to get you started.

Good luck

I wouldn’t discount the rescue until you try it. Might be good to learn it under the guidance of an instructor, rather than just trying on your own. The steps for the scramble and paddle float rescue aren’t necessarily something someone can see on a youtube video and replicate.

If you try and it is a challenge, one option would be to consider using a sit on top kayak rather than a touring/sea kayak. They are generally easier to get back on.

Another option would be to buy or build a stirrup that works with your kayak. Here is one commercial one: https://northwater.com/products/pro-rescue-stirrup. If the challenge is getting yourself up on the back of a boat, a stirrup give you a way to climb up like a ladder. Definitely make sure you try this out before you need it for real. The process adds a few more steps and also takes longer.

Another option is paddle and just choose your places to paddle wisely. Stay close enough to shore where should you flip, you can always just swim t shore to save yourself. Perhaps carry a VFH or PLB so you can call for help from shore.

If your rescues are slow, it is good to be conservative with your choice of thermal protection (wear more of it) and always wear your PFD.

Would Omeas need to do a paddle float rescue if he paddled a sit-on-top? Like SUPs, they’re easier to get on. Unsure if he has a kayak or plans to buy one.

As to the paddle float rescue, this video is very easy to follow and the heel hook works. It’s simpler if you can anchor your paddle in the bungee behind the cockpit.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbIW-rQtqVQ

If feasible, find an instructor to help you learn a paddle float rescue. This particular rescue gets easier with practice.

In my own case, I learned to roll dependably at age 76. I practice rolling frequently and also self rescue 2 to 5 times per season. It’s potentially fun. I am 17 months short of 80. Don’t let your age hinder you unless accompanied by a disability such as complete lack of flexibility.

Alternatively, if fishing is your only/primary interest
Get a sit-on-top and practice getting back in without the paddle float
and stay close to shore.

With the assistance of a paddle float, done correctly, I think you could possibly be surprised. It’s hard to say for sure.
I’ve tried lots of paddle float methods. In the one that I find the easiest, the very common mistake I see made is that folks refuse to get themselves into distinct, stable, resting positions before moving on.
Now I know of people arguing fervently against even this very next point for various reasons, but have seen them proven wrong by a paddler on the water, first doing as was insisted, and repeatedly failing. Then adding this, and succeeding immediately.
Just behind the cockpit, the first section of deck line should be regular line, and not stretchable bungie. What was insisted in the above scenario was that you should not need to secure your paddle under anything, and that it is a bad idea. The paddler couldn’t execute the re-entry, even with a coach right there. That evening, the paddler bought some deck line. In the morning, it was secured along the first section of perimeter line behind the cockpit, that had been strung with bungie. The deck line needs to have enough give to insert the paddle underneath of it, but not give much more, so that it prevents the near side of your kayak from sinking.
So you get behind the cockpit, and secure the paddle in front of you, under the line just behind the cockpit on the near side - the side you are crawling up onto. You can secure it under the deck line on the far side too if you wish, but it’s the deck line on the near side that matters the most. Do this with a paddle float already attached and inflated on the other end of the paddle. Slide that paddle all the way under that deck line up to the paddle shaft, so that you don’t break the blade.
Now you have your platform - a kayak and an outrigger. Think about maintaining that outrigger perpendicular to the boat throughout the process.
If you are able, you can swim your whole body and legs up to the surface of the water, and then seal yourself up onto the back deck behind the paddle, putting your foot over the paddle shaft at the paddle float end. The front of your ankle should be on the paddle shaft. Get yourself up there and balanced on the back deck, just barely favoring the side supported by your ankle on the paddle shaft. You should be in a position now where you can relax and take a breath. This is where many people fail. They don’t get themselves balanced on the back deck. They try to continue amidst a continuous struggle for balance. The truth is, if you can get yourself into this balanced position, the rest is easier.
If you cannot seal onto the back deck as above, hooking your knee over the top of the paddle shaft before trying to scoot your body up there can be quite a help.
So now you’re on the back deck, facing down, feeling secure and breathing easy. This is secure position #1.
Next, bring your other foot over the paddle shaft, and rest the front of your ankle on it. Then bring the first foot into the cockpit. This is secure position #2. You should relax and breath easy for a moment.
Now your 2nd leg is on the paddle shaft/outrigger. If it’s your right leg, bring your right hand down to your right leg. If it’s your left leg, bring your left hand down to your left leg. (Both hands have been out of use and relaxed since secure position #1 was achieved.) You now grab the paddle shaft with that hand, and tranfer that little bit of support from your 2nd leg, to that arm. You then slip your 2nd leg into the cockpit.
This is secure position #3. You are face down, on the back deck, with your legs in the cockpit, and a hand on the paddle shaft/outrigger.
Reach your other hand under your chest and grab the paddle shaft on the same side of the boat as the first hand. Now rotate your body around, transferring that support from your first hand to the second. Keep favoring that side as you turn over. If your balance shifts to the other side even for a split second, you may be back in the drink. The hard part is over. Don"t lose focus in this simple act.
Now you’re sitting back in the cockpit, having maintained a slight favor towards the outrigger the entire time, and still maintaining it with your hand on the shaft. This is secure position #4. Once you feel oriented and balanced enough, slide your paddle out, remove the paddle float, and situate yourself to continue.
In my experience, getting up on the back deck into a balanced position is what most struggle with. My suggestion is to learn this balanced position, for you on your boat with your paddle float, in shallow water. From a standing position, you can just lay across your back deck into a floating position, secured with that ankle on your outrigger. Find that position and feeling where you can relax your arms, breath easy, and feel secure. Learn the feel and position where it’s easy to find it, and then move on to where it may be somewhat a struggle to get yourself up there.
The person in the example above makes it look easy enough with the paddle secured under a deck line just behind the cockpit.
If you eventually graduate to not needing to secure your paddle under deck lines, and then to not needing a paddle float at all, that’s wonderful. But to the extent that it makes it possible, I think the benefit has to far outweigh any detriment.

@Rookie said:
Would Omeas need to do a paddle float rescue if he paddled a sit-on-top? Like SUPs, they’re easier to get on. Unsure if he has a kayak or plans to buy one.

Paddle floats are mostly used with sea kayaks, but they definitely can be used with sit on tops as a way to increase stability.

Just want to thanks all the folks that replied to my post, the advice and info was just great. I’m inclined to get a sit-in because of weight and my many years of canoeing experience, and I will definitely find a kyack instructor to find the best way to save my sorry butt when the occasion requires it. Thanks again for all of your comments. By the way, I live on a barrier island on the Jersey shore, outside of Atlantic City and plan to only fish the bay.

@Peter-CA said:

Paddle floats are mostly used with sea kayaks, but they definitely can be used with it on tops as a way to increase stability.

Thanks. Wasn’t aware of that.

I have to say it has been inspiring to read how so many folks on this forum who are in their 70s and 80s are out there paddling, trying new boats, practicing self rescues, rolling, etc. Not to mention sharing decades of experience with the rest of us. Just great stuff…

I know this is a strange question to ask an 80 year old, but you wrote that you do bow hunting, and I assume that this already requires some upper body strength. So…:

Can you do pull-ups and push-ups?

If not, I would recommend that you start training them now. This will be good preparation for your self rescue class and make it much easier for you to learn the classic paddle-float self rescue.

When you drag a kayak under you during the self rescue, you do a sort of a combined pull-up and push-up action, so practising pull-ups and push-ups will cover the needs quite well. (I use plural, but just being able to do one pull-up will probably be more than sufficient.)

In my club, all members have to pass a self rescue test once per year, and I happen to be one of the examinators. I hate that part of my “job”, but I love that I get to help them improve their technique when they have trouble passing the examination. So I have gained some experience in what goes wrong, and what doesn’t. My experience is:

If a person has weak technique but good upper body strength, I can help them improving their technique, right there on the spot.

But if the person has weak upper body strength, I can’t always help them in one session. We can work a little on their technique, but they will get tired soon, and then there is no point in continuing during that session. Fortunately, we gather every Sunday during the winter in an indoor pool, so they can come back the next Sunday and continue practising. But sometimes it will take a lot of Sundays before they get there.

If you are able to twist your body a little bit and if your body shape is fairly typical, there is a sit-in kayak that will take care of you. The Current Designs Sirocco and probably some others will right itself with little to no help from you. As long as you are wearing an adequate pfd and remain seated in the kayak if you happen to get tipped over. It doesn’t even take practice, but you do have to lay back in the water and twist just a bit toward the rear of the boat. It will come up so fast, you won’t know what happened. It doesn’t even matter if you’re wearing a skirt. Some will say I’m all wet, but believe me it works–for me. I’m 6’-2’’, about 180 lbs. and 76 years old.

On the other hand, in all the years (decades) I have been paddling, I have only been tipped over about four times when I didn’t want to be. Two of those were in a very tippy canoe. I probably should knock on wood, but in the kayak that I use the most in all kinds of conditions, I have never come close to getting wet and I absolutely expected to in waves that were crazy.

What I’m saying is that if you are reasonably healthy and physically active, there is no reason why kayaking shouldn’t be a reasonable activity for you. If you were good in a canoe, you will likely be great in the right kayak. Use good judgement and don’t get ahead of your experience.

A sit on top and a stirrup, as Peter-CA stated, will most likely take care of you. I think most folks prefer a sit on top for kayak fishing anyways.

SOTs can be pretty easy for self-rescue. Back in the 90s when I had my Ocean Kayak Scrambler, I found out. I was out on Lake Erie, going up and down on the little waves, and wondering just how stable this boat was … started leaning side to side, and finally went over. Didn’t mean to. I had to turn it right-side-up first, but then I tried the self-rescue instructions that OK was publishing back then: get the center of the boat against your back, reach behind and hold the gunwales. Then lean back a bit while shoving the boat under you. I flubbed it the first time, but got it on the second, just right. This puts you on top of the seat, face-up, and all you have to do is bring your legs in one at a time. Bonus is that the boats are self-bailing.

If you want to dry-practice this maneuver, you can do it on the edge of your bathtub.

I’m going to try that.

@greyheron said:
If you want to dry-practice this maneuver, you can do it on the edge of your bathtub.

@string said:
I’m going to try that.

Wear your pfd.

@rsevenic said:

@greyheron said:
If you want to dry-practice this maneuver, you can do it on the edge of your bathtub.

@string said:
I’m going to try that.

Wear your pfd.

But not on a bathtub. Those have really hard gunnels if you slip.