Self-rescue, recreational kayak

-- Last Updated: Aug-06-05 1:21 AM EST --

Today, I dumped in 10ft of water. My fault, reached to far out to retrieve my rod that went into the water. Fortunately, I had my PFD on. I've a bilge pump, but couldn't get much water out while floating along side the kayak. I wound up swimming, towing the kayak, about a mile to a small island (freshwater lake) where I dumped out most of the water and pumped the rest. Lost my rod though, along with some tackle. Oh well, at least I'm still here and it was my fault.

I don't have a paddle float. Will one help in self-rescue with a rec. kayak? Mine is short, 9.6 and has the typical size cockpit for a rec boat, though not as large as an Old Town Loon. Without getting water out of the boat, I don't believe I could have gotten back in. I fish alone and the lake I was fishing is so full of hydrilla weed no one wants to fish it, but there are several good holes. Oh, I forgot the alligators...several in the 10-12 ft range, plenty of others about 6 ft. And, I really like having a 1200 acre lake basically to myself. The fishing is too good to just give up...five catfish up to 6 lbs and thirty bluegill 8-10 inches long between 10 am and 2:30 pm. Suggestions on self-rescue will be appreciated.

You Need A Paddle Float But Also
floatation bags in your bow and stern. These work to displacement the amount of water that gets into the boat and need to be somehow attached to your boat. Behind the seat, the bag can attached to your see straps if there are any. In the front you can put a small hole on the edge of the bag and then zip lock or tie with a cord to your foot peg rail.

Now when you capsize, swim to the bow, lift up a bit to shake some water out if you can (some folks can’t do it) before you flip the boat over. The reason to do this at the bow is that water will hit the seat and the bag behind it and then drain out. If you try to do it from the stern, the water will run into the open area where your legs are. If you can’t lift the bow and shake some water out, that’s okay. Use the paddle float rescue to get back into the boat and pump out. It just means there’s more water and pumping involved. But the float bags should displace enough water than when you climb back in the coaming of the boat is above water. Without float bags, you can climb in and end with the coaming still under water which means you’ll never be able to pump out.

Get a good instructional book and/or take lessons. Then practice so you get back into the boat with ease and hopefully under a minute. Time may not be that important if you don’t paddle in cold water conditions (last I remember, alligators are down south).

Early on in kayaking career, I dropped a fishing rod in the middle of the lake as well. Now, I attached a little bungee cord to it and the deck lines. Make sure it’s not so long that you can get entangled in it.



Always Secure Your Gear
The fact you lost some gears means you don’t have a way, yet, to keep your stuff secured. That’s a must for me. Practice never leaving loose items in your boat, if you don’t want them sinking to the bottom of the lake.

depending on you and your boat
Depending on your size, fitness, agility/balance, and conditions, you might be able to just hoist yourself back in without using a paddle float. That’s how I do it in my 23" wide kayak. I grab the coaming at front and back, a bit further across than midway, and with a good scissor kick get myself up and across the cockpit. Then I twist around and drop my butt in. Then I start bailing water. I’ve also done cowboy re-entries, but I find that they take a bit longer and I don’t feel as stable if my boat has taken on a lot of water (I have a sealed rear bulkhead but use a float bag in the front). A cowboy re-entry on a wide rec boat is going to take a good amount of flexibility in the hips, so I don’t know if that would be the best way. But if you can get yourself up and across your cockpit without tipping back over, dropping in should be “easy” on a wide-beamed rec boat.

That said, always carry a paddle float and know how to use it just in case. I just find that it takes longer than is worth in the conditions in which I paddle.

Float bags
As stated above if your getting far from shore in a canoe or a rec kayak then you really need float bags tied into the boat. If you’re near NC I can meet you and show you how they work. Furthermoer, some kind of paddle float will really make things easier.

I tie a short lanyard to all my rods and clip them to the boat with a leash.

I think there can be nothing more dangerous than kayak and canoe fishing. Your mind is one the fish not on the boat and so it is easy to capsise and often fisherman have not worked out how to do a deep water rescue for their boat.

Until you get that deep water rescue down below five minutes I’d stay withing a 100 yards of the shore or less.

Might be impossible
A very short kayak with a large cockpit can float with the cockpit rim under water when fully swamped, even with added flotation (because there is so little space to add flotation), making it impossible to pump out even if you can get back in. After you add whatever flotation you can, try filling your kayak with water and sitting in it in shallow water. If the rim submerges, you can’t reliably self rescue in this boat. The only method that might then work would be dumping some or most of the water out before re-entry, and then getting back in with a paddle float or cowboy entry, being careful not to let enough water back in to prevent pumping out. I wouldn’t want to count on that. Get a sit-on-top.

Make bulkheads??
I have a perception america (early mod. no bulkheads came with) After 4 years of pool noodles jammed in the front and rear…and still way too much water to allow re-entry and bail, I made up some out of minicell foam and press fit then sealed with waterproof sealant. Yeah, they probably won’t hold more than a season before needing to be pulled and resealed but…for that season I have a far smaller area of water to contend with…trying to tow a boat with a ton of water in it a hundred yards (forget a mile!)is NO fun. Maby take a look at the outriggers SpringCreek sells for fishing out of kayaks as well??

No room in front
His boat is only nine and a half feet long. There will be very little air in front of the front bulkhead. Probably won’t do much good.

Depends On How Big He Is…
heck white boats are smaller and a front bulkhead makes a difference, if nothing else for emptying out.


Heck, he’s a Texan!

– Last Updated: Aug-07-05 10:33 AM EST –

Got to be at least 6'3" and 240, right?

I still say get a sit-on-top. Much better and safer choice for warm water fishing, and makes this whole discussion unnecessary.

I’m not 6’3". As for getting a SOT,
send your monetary donations to…Please, nothing smaller than $20’s. I’d like one, but can’t afford it right now. Of course, maybe I’ll hit the lotto. My little rec kayak has done me fine. Other than learning how to get in and out, this was the first time I’ve capsized. I’ve talked to a couple of guys with both sit-ins and SOTs, one with a Loon, the other with a Pungo, and both prefer their sit-ins for lake and slow stream fishing. Besides, I fish some small streams where a 12 foot yak would not be that easy to manuever.

Went to Gander Mountain…the closest place with much in the way of kayak accessories and they had no flotation bags. The did have a kayak safety kit that included a paddle float, but I’ve already got the bilge pump and the other equipment included in the kit so don’t want to pay $50 for that. Guess I’ll either have to trek 25 miles to the nearest canoe/kayak outfitter or order off the net.

Thanks for the advice, and for the non-advice.

I bail then can cowboy re entry.
otherwise need to have help with assisted draining water , before re entry. best to practice and get it down before ya get out on your own again.

good place for float bags
I don’t know if you’ve ever used ebay, but I got some really great deals on brand new float bags on there.