Self rescue with a rec kayak

I have a rec kayak with a stern dry hatch, and no bow dry storage.

Because of the large cockpit I bought two float bags for the bow.

I plan to do a self rescue this weekend but reading the posts about all the water that gets in the kayak it sounds like it might be very difficult.

Anyone have a experience good or bad with self rescues in a rec boat.


Robert G

Paddle float?
How are you planning to get back in? Are you going to use a paddle float? Or cowboy scramble? You can Youtube those to see what iam talking about if you not familiar with those techniques.

If you get the float bags in the bow they will need to be secured some how or they will just pop out and float away. Once secured they should take up enough room to not allow as much water into the kayak. Does your kayak have any perimeter (deck rigging) line running along the outside of the kayak as that will make it easier to get back in if using a paddle float. You will need a pump of course once back in to empty out and remaining water.

If you have someone help you while they stand in the water that will help you learn and you will eventually be able to do it alone. A class of some sort would be best but you can do it without if thats not available to you. Good luck.

just give it a go very near shore
I think there’s enough risk of issues that I would not suggest being too far from shore in general. But even if a pain you’re just a bit safer if you can do it. And if you can’t you have an extra good reason to stay extra close to shore – better to know.

Depending on how you flip you may not get a lot of water. But a real life flip may involve something like boat wake that may maker it wetter. To empty first lift near the bow just a bit and hold to see if you can drain a lot and ideally burp the cockpit. Then you after lowering you can go for a more forceful drain and flip. Trying to push hard right at the start will be very hard with all that water.

Can’t hurt to give it a try and learn what happens. Just stay near shore until you feel confident.

start off easy
cram those suckers in there fully inflated.

If you normally wear a skirt, leave it off for the first few tries til you get the hang of it, as skirts can get caught on things.

Capsize in water up to your chest.

Try paddlefloat rescue, and try cowboy rescue. Pretend you are in deep water and try not to let feet touch bottom. But if you get tired you can just stand up and start anew.

See how it goes. Put on the skirt and try your rescues again.

If the seat goes above the coaming as it does in many/most rec kayaks, you may find that makes climbing in the cockpit more difficult. Or does not matter.

If the bags float out you’ll know quickly. You can install D rings on straps w. some contact cement gel when the inside is dry. I’ve always believed if it ain’t tethered it ain’t on the boat.

Think about adding (more) perimeter lines (non-bungee) and the fittings to hold them. Gives you more grab ons when you’re in the water next to your kayak. Easily added and not expensive.

Good for you for trying it out before you have to find out.

Drain like a canoe
move to shallow water where boat is still floating … flip so the keel is up then lift one end …

start near shore
The advice above to try it near shore is good. Give it a go and let us know how it went.

Some rec boats with stern hatch/bulkhead and none up front can have rescues done, others cant. The main issue is whether the front fills with too much water so that the combing is too low to be able to drain. Float bags up front should help a lot.


– Last Updated: Sep-14-13 2:53 PM EST –

Float bags are a start. After that it is a combination of how hard it is for you to get your body over the top of the stern of the kayak and balance to get back in. Even with float bags it is likely your boat will have much more water in it than my sea kayak that often comes up pretty dry, but West Marine does have a submersible battery powered pump that is easier than pumping your arms off.

How hard it is for you to get over the top of the stern - whether for a paddle float or a cowboy - comes down to a few factors. How tall the rear deck is, how well you can scoot your body out of the water (are you way skinny or dealing with a little more bulge lower down) and what you have to help do that (perimeter rigging for example, static line that won't stretch when you pull it). The more agile you are the less you need with a low deck and perimeter rigging, and vice versa.

The balance part of scooting securely into the cockpit is just practice time - it can be learned.

As above, try it near shore and see how it goes. I've seen people manage it easily in ridiculously unhelpful boats, granted usually kids, and I've seen people in reasonably equipped boats still be unable to do it after three sessions (usually people with poor fitness).

I was
Amazed at how little water the was in my Swift Saranac this Summer while demoing wet exits.

Paddle float and sling?

– Last Updated: Sep-15-13 7:22 AM EST –

I taught quite a few people to do the paddle float reentry in rec boats and most could do it. A few could not because their boats were so round and high. And a few people where not in good shape and could not throw their bodies over the boat even with a paddle float. Then we tried a sling with the paddle float and everyone easily got back in. (for the poster of the thread) - A sling is a loop that you can step into with your foot that is attached to the paddle float. I'll try to find a link showing it and post it.

It's good that the poster is trying this and actually thinking about realities on the water. Where there's a will there's a way.

Stick to the shore
Though obvious, you’ll want to stick near the shore in water you stand in. Dump yourself over quickly and wet exit. Depending on just how big your rec cockpit it, you might self-eject without having to wiggle out. Keep your feet off the bottom (trailing behind you is good…no cheating!) and right the kayak quickly. The key is not to leave it lingering on its side for the cockpit to flood. If you don’t monkey around through the procedure, the cockpit may only be 1/4 to 1/3 full. Then have at it with various re-entries. Make sure to do some re-entry testing with a fully flooded cockpit (which can easily happen). That might be an eye opener after you’ve successfully completed your initial re-entries. It will certainly test how effective your floatation is. ;^)

BTW, if you do a cowboy rescue,
don’t hug the boat with your legs as this will affect your balance. Keep the out away from the boat and don’t be in a hurry. I move maybe 6-8" at a time and that works for me.

Best of luck in your endeavors.

What I do
Aside from adding floatation, and flipping the boat so the water stays to a minimum I have a gallon jug I use to bail the boat while I stay in the water this is faster than using a hand pump. Also I found that if you push and pull the boat back and forth you can splash a considerable amount of water out as it comes up the seat. This may be somewhat boat design dependent. I then come up over the stern and do a scramble or cowboy type rescue. Wearing a PFD makes it easier.

Self Rescue is difficult at best even in
still water. Instead, I use ultra long painters and wet exit. The painters are tied in such a way as to unravel when one end is pulled. On exit, i grab my paddle and one end of the painter and swim to safety, using the paddle across my shoulders to propel me. Once im standing on a secure place, i pull the boat to me, do the Capistrano Flip and I’m good to go. Works every time.

How’d the practice go?
Just thought it’d be good to hear if any of the ideas worked for you.

Rec self rescue follow up
Thanks everyone for your tips.

I practiced getting into my rec boat in shallow water, but I did not capsize it(another day)

I was surprised how far the weak current took me as I was practicing with a paddle float.

I was concerned about the float bags in the bow, & if there is a way to prevent them from moving around when water gets in?

I had a paddle leash that helped keep both the paddle & kayak close to me.

I will try a real self rescue this weekend.

Thanks everyone for all your advice.

Robert G

tether the bags
You can usually tie the float bags to the foot pedals to keep them from coming out.

keep one. foot in the boat
While swimming. A paddle leash is not always your friend in the kind of self rescue you are trying.

Endorse Jay’s Recommendation
First of all, Jay just knows what he is talking about.

The way I learned was to drape the sling on your paddle where the paddle meets the shaft. So, one side of the paddle has the float on it, and the other has the sling. Place the paddle with float and sling across the back deck in the traditional paddle float way. So, the paddle float is closest you and the sling is hanging in the water on the side opposite you. Next, you reach under the boat and grab the sling rope, pull it to you, then drape it over the shaft on your side of the boat. Wrap it a few times so the sling hangs low enough for you put your foot in it. Step into the stirrup, like mounting a horse and finish your paddle float rescue in the normal way. I’ve seen a person not get it the first time, so a little practice would help. I think there are paddle floats with slings now, but I have not tried them.