Speaking of rescues

Here’s an interesting audio transcript of a rescue involving a west coast kayaker. It was a good learning session for me, one that I’d rather listen to then actually experience.

I do think a DSC radio would have shortened the time the paddler was in the water.

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Very interesting and compelling. Assuming the time markers on the audio file are accurate, he got fished out of the water within 9 minutes, which is pretty dang good, I imagine. I suspect, not knowing the area, that he was fortunate that there were other vessels in the area that heard his distress call. Hats off to the paddler for remaining (what sounded like) relatively calm.

It’s interesting to me that he had his coordinates, which would suggest he either had a radio with some GPS capability or he had a standalone GPS that he managed to keep on his person. Regardless, the audio file strongly reinforces the need to have a radio on you.


I’ve not paddled the area, but here it is on a map:

Ocean temperature is probably about 55F in August.

The bar sounds like it was rough that day, as noted by toward the end the Coast Guard sent out a call closing the bar to vessels 26’ and under due to predicted hazardous conditions.

Getting out location and then being seen are definitely concerns for us in emergencies.

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I couldn’t get your link to open. This one should work:

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The audio transcript is not in real time. It is 118 individual audio files that in real time took about 40 minutes.

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All kinds of questions in my head regarding the paddler’s skill and physical levels, equipment (besides radio, and maybe GPS), knowledge of the area and condtions.

Likely will never the know the context. The three take-aways. Yes, wear immersion wear (although mention was made of leakage in the drysuit) and PFD. Of course, carry VHF if one is going to venture out beyond protected waters.



His trip report:


His quote: For now, it is enough to be back on land, safe at home with my beloved wife and children.

Ok. I’ll agree with him on that.

PS. The picture of himself in the Blog, if that is the drysuit he was wearing, it is neither “dry” nor “semi-dry”, given how open the neck gasket area is. It’s basically a zippered, full-body “splash” suit. That would account for his mentions of taking in water in the suit ( and reflected in the increasing sense of panic in his voice as he started to chill).


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Here is comments that Alex posted to Westcoastpaddler message board with the audio:

The coast guard has released the audio from my rescue. Link here, and embedded below. [removed - same as what was posted before in p.com]

The coast guard’s Rescue 21 system recorded each transmission as a separate audio file. For this upload, I have combined the 118 separate audio files into a single audio file. Combining the separate files into a single file removes the dead airtime between transmissions. As a result, it sounds as if each event happens instantaneously following the preceding event. In real life, things did not evolve this quickly. The real rescue took somewhat more than forty minutes from the time of the first mayday call until the fishing vessel Western Edge picked me up.

Consistent with what the Western Edge crew told me after they picked me up, it does appear my radio transmissions became inaudible to vessels on the water at a certain point. My last transmission to receive a response is at 5:24 in the audio file. I continued to transmit, but I no longer received replies—although it took me some time to figure out that I was not being heard. Interestingly, the Rescue 21 system did continue to record my transmissions, but no one else on the water seemed to hear them.

I believe the microphone became waterlogged. At several points in the audio, water sloshes audibly over the mic, particularly at 2:56 and 4:02. I remember getting mouthfuls of water on several occasions while I was trying to talk.

It also appears not all of my transmissions were received by the Rescue 21 system. For example, after my transmission at 5:24 regarding the sailboat, I made another transmission describing the sailboat in more detail, but Rescue 21 does not seem to have recorded that transmission at all. There may be other transmissions that were also lost, but I cannot be certain.

Even before the radio became waterlogged, transmitting my position from a handheld GPS went poorly. I broadcast my position as “North 48 Degrees [pause] 55 Decimal 020. West 124 [pause] 10 [pause] 020.”

This transmission was ambiguous for two reasons. First, I did not specify whether I was broadcasting in “decimal degrees” or “degrees, decimal minutes.” Second, I did not include the decimal in the transmission of my longitude, so even if it was apparent from context that I was using “degrees, decimal minutes,” it was not obvious whether my longitude was 124° 10.020’ or 124° 10020’. Of course, the latter case would not be a possible location, because you cannot have more than sixty minutes, but it was asking a lot of my listeners to ask them to figure all this out on the fly.

If I had been using “decimal degrees,” then 124.10020° would not have been a manifestly impossible longitude. It would have been about three miles (5 km) east of my actual longitude—far enough to put rescue boats out of sight, but not far enough that a listener would immediately realize there had been a miscommunication.

Confusion was worse confounded when the Solstice incorrectly relayed my longitude as 124 11 010 (again, with no units or decimals). After converting this number to “degrees, decimal minutes,” (124° 11.010’) the relayed longitude would be almost two-thirds of a mile (just over a kilometer) west of my true position. If erroneously converted to “decimal degrees,” (124.11010°) the relayed longitude would be around two and a half miles (4.5 km) east of my true position.

Despite the confusion over the coordinates, the Solstice was the first boat to spot me, and it then hovered nearby so that the Western Edge and the coast guard could find me more easily. During this evolution, I asked the Solstice to pull me out of the water or else deploy a swim ladder, but unbeknownst to me, my radio had already become unreceivable by this time.

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Is it possible the neoprene around his neck is just a protective cover for the latex neck gasket? My suit has such a “cover”.

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I was thinking the same. But I think I remember hearing that his latex neck gasket was basically gone, so the loose neoprene “punch through” gasket was all he had.

From the westcoastpaddler.com link that you shared, Alex states

All three gaskets on my drysuit are blown. I tried to send it to Kokotat for repair last year, but they were closed due to coronavirus.

Okay, I’ll say it, since the “facts” are laid out in his Blog.

That deficient “drysuit” was only one of several “chinks in the armor”.

Based on reading his blog, he didn’t really understand/appreciate the challenges of that area, based on tide phase, wind and swells. I don’t know how big the swells were but he could have avoided breaking waves (unless these were MASSIVE) by staying farther out in the channel and cutting towards shore in the “eddy” that would have been created “down current” of Damon Pt. The fact that he got caught by a breaking swell, in an area where one should expect shoaling to happen, reflect lack of knowledge and/or lack of awareness. (Anybody with wave paddling experience would have stayed farther out and still should keep an eye out for something rogue coming from the back.)

He overestimated his physical conditioning because he said he was expecting a 1.5 knot but encountered a 2.5 knot ebb current and couldn’t handle it. Most touring paddlers can do 3-4 knots. But, he may have been exhausted from being out for close to 20 plus hours. So the judgement issue – why pushed oneself to that level of unsafe physical margin?

Also, he did not have requisite skills in rolling, re-entry and roll or self-rescue. He was relying on good conditions, despite “small craft” advisories which could be for wind and/or swells. As such, he should not have been alone but with a partner who is as much if not more capable with assisted rescue techniques. The fact that he didn’t have a partner meant that he was relying on his radio and phone to call the CG and good samaritans to bail him out when the crap hit the fan.

I love (not) his “judgement” of the insurance folks as being “less than helpful.” I feel the same about this “gem” of self reflection and awareness:

“Notwithstanding the disastrous end, it was still a magnificent trip. Since the advent of the internal combustion engine, few people have experienced the wild birds of the ocean in as personal way as this.”

That is the equivilent of those “extreme” mountain climbers who “climb” Mt Everest and have a “peak experience” with the help of a team of Sherpas carrying their food, tent and oxygen…

Jeeze Louise.



Jeez Louise is about all I could say too. I think he owes being rescued to trying to paddle in a very busy commercial seaport. He’s lucky he did not get run over. Also that entrance there has an enormously well known reputation for extremely rough conditions. I looked through a few of his other trips for places I have paddled. Opened the one about near La Push … and it read something like " the inflatable kayaks were not really well suited to the water conditions …" yeah, closed it. Trying to fathom someone who is prone to seasickness, and no rough water skills to planning a solo trip 30 miles out off the coast of Washington …


Triple… I have had puffins fly within inches of my nose and sitting in the water inches away. I did not take risks outside of my capacity to have that experience, if anything stayed inside of it by a wide margin. It is often possible to avoid being rescued.

I don’t expect anyone to read this but, had to get it off my chest. I can accept risky exploration and adventure and even doing so solo. But I wouldn’t stand in line with this guy in a coffee shop much less ever paddle with the likes of him. If you did and anything went wrong, you will be blamed. Nothing seems to be this guy’s fault and it doesn’t sound like he learned any lessons.

I almost stopped reading at “face-offs with bears” but had time to kill. It starts early. “ The Brunton compass was not well designed for nighttime operation. ” If it was not an internally illuminated compass it was never designed for night use at all. One cannot expect to shine a light at a compass and not have glare or difficulty reading it.

Bonine, canned coffee and Red Bull is his chosen elixir for seasickness and fatigue. I may be out of touch, is this what real adventurers do?

He’s a self professed Mr. Commune-with-nature. Drags a chum bag tied to his boat. But don’t worry, he is packing a .45 auto to shoot sharks that might attack him. Outrageous.

He is aware of tidal currents at the bar and knows to come in on the flood. But he can’t manage to check a current table or the actual state of the current to determine if he will make it before ebb. If he got there way too early, why not choose to stand off until next slack when he expected to arrive anyway.

He can’t paddle against 2.5 knots. I’m old with destroyed rotator cuffs, have a small 15’ boat and flail around more than have a stroke but, even I can paddle for at least several hundred feet at 4 knots.

He’s crossing the bar with breaking waves and just this one sneaks up behind him and catches him off guard because it was sort of gradual. “A little countervailing lean of the boat was not going to right the situation this time.” This sounds like someone who doesn’t know what a brace is. I mean at all. I think the average paddler would say their brace failed.

“I didn’t know how to roll a kayak.” Unbelievably Wow! My jaw literally dropped. Solo open ocean paddling, known difficult bar to cross. And from his own description couldn’t even keep the boat upright to even attempt a reentry. And knowing he lacked these skills and knowing the risks of crossing the bar at the wrong time, he went anyway.

Without any real justification, he blames the radio for poor transmission. He doesn’t seem to know how VHF radio waves work, or he may have had it set to one watt, or in his panicked situation he might not have pressed the mic button enough. But immediately blame the radio instead. And make sure everyone knows which model. That’ll show ‘em.

“… were less daunted by the heavy chop than the yachties had been.” Calling someone “yachties” as far as I’ve always known is a pejorative so this statement is unconscionably selfish. Mariners have a duty to assist if it does not put their own boat or crew at risk. At the bar in breaking waves the concern for a broach is very real, dangerous and justified. A cabin cruiser is often a much different type of boat than an ocean capable fishing trawler. They should have been thanked for any attempt rather than labeled daunted yachties.

Allstate staff are jerks because they didn’t immediately reimburse him. He must have been on the phone asap “battling” them because the CG found his boat only a couple days later.

He blames others for not deciphering his articulation of coordinates, noting it would be too much trouble for them. At first I wasn’t sure if it was a sarcasm but he went on at length about. How about if he gave proper coordinates instead? I have a hard enough time writing down coordinates from the CG. I’ve done so listening to actual Maydays. In a panic, they are not easily understood and can be confusing. They rattle off numbers that don’t sound like any uniform convention. There’s no reason to blame the listener.

Couldn’t fix his dry suit because Kokatat was closed. Not directly blaming them but weak excuse and why couldn’t he buy another, take it elsewhere for repairs, repair it himself, not go until it was repaired?

I would have thought the epilogue would have included lessons learned like- learn to roll, master rough water self-assisted rescue, have appropriate functioning gear, carry a PLB, DSC VHF (and remember to register a MMSI) stop dragging a @#&%ۤ chum bag. But not a peep.


RC51Mike, agree, he focused on obscure fantasies but lacked vital skill and judgement.

Agree with all of the above but I will get called elitist… especially about the roll part.

On one point, his language about the roll sounds like he subsequently at least got a pool roll. But the entire concept of taking a trip so far offshore without a pretty bomb proof roll is outside of my understanding. And yes, since learning a roll tends to instantly improve bracing skills, I also suspect that he did not have bracing talent to handle the waves. But that is admittedly closer to conjecture on my part.

I have some sympathy for his jumbling coordinates, if this was his first time in such a fix. But not for blaming the people trying to find him. In fact if you just calm down and give good information off of some significant marker, others can usually find you. I and Jim sat on the front porch in the cabin rental more than once hearing at least one side of a May Day call where the boaters in trouble never managed coordinates. But they offered enough other information on direction from nearby islands and approx speed and direction of drift (if it was a dead motor issue) that it never took the CG overly long to find them. Or other boaters if it was during the day.


I did read and well said. :+1:

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So, actually if he had on workable immersion gear, he wouldn’t have to panic as much as he did. Quite frankly, the ebb tide (that he couldn’t make headway into) would have carried him farther out past the north jetty where (looking at the satellite map) an eddy would have formed. This would pushed him in towards the beach just outside of the harbor. Both he and his boat would ended being surfed to shore at some point.


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