solo rescue

have practice solo rescue many times, but with my new Kevlar I can not get back into my boat. no matter what technique I tried the boat tips over on to me. it was suggested I try an stirup and that did not work.

i am black and blue trying and have lost confidence. I did not have this problem in a heavier boat. my boat is 37 lbs. and I am 148 lbs.

thanks for any help

paddle float?
Have you tried using a paddle float?

What’s your location, I would be happy
to help.

what boat/type
real hard to guess without a picture. But knowing how the boats are different could give a clue. The new one being 37lb kevlar makes me ask it’s a surf ski. As the other person asked, are you using a paddle float or some variation of just scrambling in? If the latter than being more tipping in general of course makes it harder. Either method a higher or more rounded top deck could make it harder. But with a paddle float the higher deck would mostly be more work but not the boat tipping over.

If we could see you try we may find some common tricks used to help regardless of the cause.


– Last Updated: Aug-27-12 11:23 PM EST –

I have a DVD Sea Kayak by Gordon Brown. in the video he shows how to balance sitting on the back topside of the kayak. Once you can sit up there and rotate yourself around 360 degrees then self rescue is easy. After practicing balancing on the back of the kayak now self rescue is peice of cake. No more tipping over. Iam assuming its a kayak and not a surf ski. My kayak is 21.46 inches wide. What is your kayak? There is a guy I go with who has a kayak just over 19 inches wide and he has hard time self rescueing. But certainly a paddle float will keep you from tipping over.

heel hook
look up the heel hook paddle float rescue. It was developed by a paddling friend of mine and she uses to help a lot of women who are challenged by other self rescue techniques that require more upper body strength.

light boats are a little tippier.

What types of boats are you using? Makes and models?

What types of solo reentries have you tried?

solo rescue
thanks everyone for all the good ideas. I do use a paddle float and have tried the 3 main techniques for solo rescue., and have tried a toe hook.

my boat’s beam is 21.5 and is a swift saranac.

I did not have a problem entering heavier boats. what seems to happen is that just when I am in position to have a final push onto the boat it tipped onto me.

I guess I need a private lesson. I am in Toronto with lake Ontario at my doorstep.

OK - with that in mind I can see you having a little more trouble thank with some other boats. The Saranac is popular around here.

The Saranac has a relatively high deck, is lightweight and has a cockpit that isn’t quite as friendly to making the water’s edge as some others. So you are not going to have long to do the weight transfer from being balanced along the side to being over the back deck. We have had someone out to try and learn a self-rescue in that boat and, while the person involved was far from athletic individual, their boat wasn’t giving them a lot of room for error.

I would suggest that you first pay attention to the part where you slide or roll over the back deck, see if you can get it faster and more effectively a single motion. I’d guess you are getting stopped in the middle.

If the capsize is happening after you are up there, your problem is learning to balance in a boat that might be narrower and/or have a higher deck than you were used to. Both of these are things that take time to get used to. You can use the paddle as an outrigger to help while you climb around, but your best bet will be to take the boat into a shallow area near shore and simply practice climbing forward and back, turning around, sitting up on the deck etc. The best way to learn balance is to practice it. Once you have that down, the self-rescue gets a lot more assured.

Also consider taking a hard look at the RDF’s to see if they need reinforcement. The other problem we have run into with these boats is that is that the RDF’s pull out a bit too easily under a weight load, like pulling on them to roll over the back of the boat. You can probably get some composite in there under the deck if any of them look like a weak link.

Similar experience—related to chines?
I was able to easily enter my last kayak, an Old Town Cayuga 146 (weight at least 55 lbs, soft chine) with a paddle float and stirrup. My current kayak (Eddlyline Journey, 49 lbs, hard chine) is a lot harder to reenter, at least for me. Once it gets to the edge of the chine, it flips quickly with very little pressure. The trick seems to be to get the body weight centered behind the cockpit in one smooth movement, avoiding weighing down the side. I’m not sure that’s compatible with a stirrup, since the stirrup automatically puts weight at the side rather than the center. Not everyone can get up on the deck without a stirrup, so that’s a dilemma (that I haven’t solved).

So I’m wondering if soft versus hard chine is a factor.

Rig re-entry bungees

– Last Updated: Aug-28-12 6:50 PM EST –

Swift doesn't properly outfit their kayaks with re-entry bungees. Bill Swift and I went back & forth about this a few years ago.

In order for a paddle float to stabilize your boat when re-entering, the paddle needs to stay at a 90-degree angle to the boat.

It is much easier to do this if the kayak has elastic perimeter lines between the first & second pad-eyes behind the cockpit. You can insert the blade without the paddle float under both elastics, and they will hold the paddle in place.

Swift uses static line instead of elastic behind the cockpit, and you run the risk of breaking your paddle (assuming you can position it under the lines at all).

As soon as I got our Swifts, I shortened the static perimeter lines so they ended at the 2nd pad-eye behind the cockpit, and replaced them with elastic.

Once you have the paddle and float stabilized under the re-entry bungees, you should have no problem re-entering your boat if you use the traditional side entry.

[[However, if you're partial to the heel hook re-entry...this part of the original post was wrong and I deleted it. Thanks, Celia!]]

At the risk of insulting your intelligence, here's how to do the traditional side-entry with a paddle float:

Put the paddle in place: one blade hooked under both re-entry bungees on both sides of the boat, other blade with the paddle float away from the boat, paddle at a 90-degree angle to the boat.

Position yourself at the cockpit facing the boat, in front of your paddle. Hook the front of your ankle hearest the paddle float over the paddleshaft near the float, so the top of your ankle is resting on the shaft and your foot is facing down.

Grab the far side of the cockpit coaming with both hands and, using your foot on the paddleshaft to push yourself, haul yourself up so you're lying stomach down over the cockpit.

Put the hand nearest the paddle on the shaft just outside the boat and lean on it. Let your foot come off the paddleshaft and hook the other knee into the cockpit.

Rotate your body so you're facing the stern, still on your stomach. Still leaning on the paddle float with your nearest hand, scoot yourself forward on your stomach toward the stern until you're far back enough to get both feet in the cockpit.

Still leaning toward the paddlefloat, rotate your body lengthwise until you can sit down. Lean your forearm on the paddle & float while you pump water out of the cockpit, put your sprayskirt on, etc.

Pull the paddle out of the bungees behind you, bring the paddle & float around in front of you into paddling position. You can still use the float for support.

Deflate the float just enough to take it off the blade, and get yourself in paddling position while you deflate and stow the float.

Look up David Johnston of the

Saranac isn’t hard chined
Like I said, it is just plain high and bouncy for entry from the water.

I have done the paddle float heel hook self-rescue, the one where you do it solo with a paddle float under your arms, and the start is still from behind the cockpit. As I recall I used the same part of the rigging for that as I would for a regular paddle float self-rescue. The only diff is that I was facing skyward rather than downward in the water to start, and was more parallel to the boat than sideways. The assisted heel hook is also from behind the cockpit.

Is there some other variation of the heel hook you are talking about, where the start is in front of the cockpit?

It’s Nature’s Way of Telling You…

learn to roll

Brain Fart
You are absolutely right, the heel hook is done facing the bow from behind the cockpit. What was I thinking? And I did a couple heel hook re-entries this past Saturday!

Thanks for setting the record straight. I’m going to edit my post so folks don’t get the wrong idea, but I hereby acknowledge that I originally said you couldn’t do a heel hook rescue with a paddle float because you were in front of the cockpit away from the paddle. Wrong-o.

Me too, very often
It’s been a few months of not being able to find my keys on a daily basis, stuff going on at home. Consider it a rare moment that I even noticed.


Some boats make it hard

– Last Updated: Aug-30-12 8:40 AM EST –

Yes, learn to roll. But recognize that some boats make it hard to roll them or hard to do a paddle float reentry. I watched a beginner trying to climb back in a Perception Eclipse with a paddle float outrigger, and she flipped it time and again. Similarly, I had an Eddyline Fathom LV with a very high front deck. I couldn't roll it, and when I tried cowboy reentries I would flip every time I got up to the cockpit just before I could drop my butt in. Ideally, a paddler wouldn't blame the boat and would learn to roll anything (like Dubside). But I just traded the boat. I am now in an easily rollable, low/decked Pilgrim and also an Alchemy. Both are easy to reenter with a paddle float or a cowboy technique. Boat replacement is one way to solve the problem, though not the most noble. But it worked for me.

RIght Kind of Practice

– Last Updated: Aug-30-12 12:16 PM EST –

One suggestion would be to work on your upper body strength, go to the gym and work on arm and torso strength and flexibility. In reality it's not the boat or paddle float or the gear that needs fixing, it's you. You need to increase your (1)strength, (2)balance and (3)flexibility.

Practice getting into your boat on grass holding it steady and getting inside. Pretend you are foating on the water and grab the cockpit and swim up on the deck, just do it on the back lawn so the neighbors don't see you.

Then move to very shallow water and practice the same thing. Remember when you were a kid and learning how to ride a bike, you played with your bike, coasting on the peddles etc. Do the same thing with your kayak so that you can reach across the cockpit and pull your self across balancing the boat, don't even use a paddle float, just convince yourself you can get yourself into position, then worry about getting in the cockpit. Practice balance by sitting on the back deck,, standing up and paddling, climbing on top of the boat when it is upside down, practice doing cowboys in very shallow water. The point is you want to develop a feel for how your boat balances, confidence that the boat is your water pal and you want to develop the muscle control to keep the boat doing what you want it to do.

Enjoyed this reply
The easiest boat we have to roll or do rescues with is the NDK Romany, because of the head room in the hull profile and the low deck height. When I have to renew my roll after a long layoff , I start with a boat like that. Getting too old to spend extra time arguing with the boat.