Speaking of rescues

No one came here seeking advice that I can find.

A thread was started by a member who said right up front that they felt it was a learning opportunity. Further exploration of the rescue came from the words of the person involved, who as far as I can tell here has also not sought advice.

Someone did come in here and commented on the tone of things - who was themselves quick to criticize but just different criticisms. And has neither sought advice nor talked about their own experience level.

The date of the event transcript was August 22 2021, towards the end of the last easy paddling season in that region and close enough to now that the skills present then have not had a lot of time to be improved outside of pool sessions.

To repeat - no one has asked for advice. It has been looked at by some as a case study, albeit one of what not to do in many ways. But newer paddlers here who want to try sea kayaking would be well advised to get past concerns about the tone to the quite substantive parts of these comments. This is the kind of discussion which could also save someone’s life.



WithoutAPaddle and Waterwander. I’m interested in your constructive comments concerning the Coast Guard Rescue of the bird watcher.

You are 100% correct and look how defensive some people get when you call them out about their behavior. If you read the accident threads here they all follow the same pattern.

  1. Someone shares a story or link
  2. Someone shares a useful reminder; for example, It’s a good idea to keep your VHF on your PFD
  3. Then it quickly devolves into people sh*t talking the poor soul who had the accident. For example, He was dragging chum (not the way I would kayak); therefore he must have been looking for trouble. In this case, the paddler’s blog makes him sound eccentric; therefore, he must have been incompetent to be where he was. He doesn’t kayak like I do, so he deserved what he got.
  4. Then there’s the unavoidable discussion of gear and rolling skills, whether relevant to the report or not. I’m sure there’s thread here somewhere where someone got struck by lightning and the follow up posts mentioned how the paddler didn’t have a good roll :slight_smile:
  5. When there’s no facts in the report, we’ll just make up our own to complete the narrative that we know better!

This is NOT accident review or critique. It’s criticism and mocking. There’s a difference between a legit accident review (critique) and passing judgment on someone (criticism). I’m legitimately at a loss as to why anyone would come to this forum when so many of the posts have this holier than thou attitude. The paddler in question made mistakes. No question about it, and they are detailed in his blog. Maybe he learned from them, maybe not. It’s not our place to pass judgment. To say he was a candidate for a Darwin award doesn’t add anything to the analysis of how to avoid the mistakes.


From my POV you totally nailed it.
Thank you for speaking up.


Well said, @Bobonli

It’s worth noting that the same trip report was posted here in August 2021 in a different thread. The comments by pNet members on that thread versus here speaks volumes.


Bobonli, I don’t disagree with your sentiment. I’ve said exactly the same thing in the past. I don’t recall seeing this post. I have no problem with anyone thinking my comments were harsh.

Without rehashing this, since it is a dead horse. What was so infuriating is how the kayaker literally pointed out each danger in detail. I’ve defended vigorously a paddler’s decision if and when to learn rolling. I personally do not, and realize there could be a time where it would be a valuable skill. 32 1/2 miles from shore over a period of 22 hours, around whales, in the dark, with sharks, with fish parts . . . Factors that I consider include conditions, forecasts, time on the water, distance from land and all the rest. Level of skill has to equal the challenge.

So here’s the dilemma. An inexperienced kayaker comes on and reads that story. Next week, that person follows the same path. Not a problem?

The story was published by the person involved. Our forum is public access. Nothing I say on these pages can be construed as behind someones back. If you enjoy kayaking, this forum invariably pops up on relayed topics.

Here’s a good angle. Why doesn’t someone bring up the good points about what the kayaker did. I’ll start:

  1. wore his PFD
  2. had a lanyard on his paddle

I won’t apologize for my comments here. There’s gently critiquing events where despite planning and best efforts something went wrong, or someone made a simple mistake, or conditions suddenly changed, and they needed rescuing. Accidents happen, and learnings can be taken from them. Knowingly using a leaking drysuit, unable to do a basic brace, inability to self rescue at all, and still going out in those conditions? Still unclear as to whether or not he even had a spray skirt… None of this was accidental, it was a series of conscious decisions of his, unnecessary risks he took, and it isn’t elitist to criticize these stupid decisions, no matter how harshly. It deserves harsh criticism. As does his criticism of the “yachties” who were unable to get to him because of the conditions on the bar, and his boasting about his argument with his insurance company.

As someone new to kayaking, I am actually relieved to see experienced people here that are so appalled by this guy’s actions that they will speak out loudly against them, and to caution newcomers against making similar mistakes that could cost them their lives.

As for things he did right, I can add these…

  1. Had a VHF radio

  2. Cut away the chum bag when the 6-20+ foot shark bit into it

I might have a different take on some of this.

To be fair, we don’t know if he could have self-rescued had this event happened somewhere other than in waves being driven towards the jetty. Like out in the open with less rambunctious water. If the details about the length of this trip are true, the issue in more open conditions might have been tiredness more than capacity. But it might have been something he started this trip out being able were the conditions more moderate.

Similar on his brace, he may have had something that worked in more moderate conditions but had limited experience in following and probably pushy seas. People often freeze the first time they encounter that at a newly significant level. There is a river mouth that I/we often cross getting back to the cabin in Maine where the water can often be a bit pushy even if not big. I have come across that more than once paddling just off of someone’s stern telling them to keep paddling. Else they freeze.

Even having a roll does not assure being able to do so in waves. Some like me, even when the roll was epic on both sides ,can also be very good at coming up on the side where the waves knock you down before you are up. Last time I was in surf I proved I had that skill, in spades. Three tries and it never occurred to me to try the other side, though I managed that more than once in moderate whitewater.

Overall this is a case of someone with inadequate preparation for the environment and risk assessment getting into a situation where both needed to be operating at a much higher level. Perhaps also some inexperience regarding pelagic birds as well. In my experience they will dive right next to you if you just sit in the water where the fish are. The whole thing of bringing food seems a bit contrived.

I am glad that some are taking away something useful out of this.

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I think what Pru observed in another thread is in play here: “This is a ‘first world’ problem.”

Despite my harsh critique, and I stated this in my first post, I am glad he was rescued for his wife and kids. But, as I also stated in another thread about “pay for your rescue” (Rescued! - Now Pay For It!), if he and others (including myself) were held accountable – even it is just financial – I would be fine with it, as this would hopefully be considered before proceeding the “next time.”

Yeah, have your freedom but not on someone else’s dime (and, more importantly, risk of life).

sing (Absolutely the PNet elitist.)

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Although he was right in having a VHF, if he was planning on going that far off shore he would have been dependent on having another boat close enough and monitoring channel 16 to hear him. Maximum range of a hand held VHF is about 5 miles and considerably less if you are in the water with it. He was lucky that the capsize happened almost right on shore and there were other boats nearby monitoring channel 16.

For reliable communication in the situations he was in for much of his “adventure”, he would have needed a satellite communication device.

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Welcome and my advice is to move on, and find real people in your community to learn from; for example a coach. If you read the entirety of this thread and others like it, you’ll see there’s a handful of members (maybe 5) who drive the attitude that you write about. Even when they are called out about their behavior, they double down with “You should pay attention to me, I’m more experienced and smarter than you are.”

The internet is a funny place. Everyone gets a voice and an opinion and there are pockets of “expertise” like here where people bloviate about how knowledgeable they are. Other than Reddit, I can’t think of another forum where people are so unkind and then label their behavior as “teaching newcomers” or “offering guidance.”

You should not expect to see a change in behavior. There’s no reason to change when you (a) think you’re the font of all knowledge (b) there’s apparently no forum moderation (c) people still respond to their posts (think of all the time you and I wasted typing these words) and (d) you get to hide behind a screen name and spew information at people you’ll probably never meet in person.


I have nothing to add, except to thank rsteven15 for reminding me of the limitation of the VHF range. Who was the wise sage - better to learn from another person’s mistakes.


There have been some interpretations of events that have been colored by assumptions that were picked up, spun and repeated over and over. A key point that some folks seem to feel that beginners aren’t smart enough to figure out on their first reading is that a reliable roll should have been part of the tool kit. I agree with that assessment for a trip like this. I’m pretty sure that Alex does as well. Likewise for use of the drysuit with blown gaskets. Both of those points have been made ad nauseum and the newer paddlers are aware of the weight of a gallon of water. I’m pretty sure that they got the message days ago.

There have been comments about his choices of equipment and the lack thereof from folks who made assumptions based of some other choices he made. To be clear strapped to him or otherwise accessible equipment included:

  • One Standard Horizon HX-300 radio;
  • One Uniden MH-5125 radio;
  • One Ocean Signal RecueMe personal locator beacon (PLB);
  • One iPhone in a waterproof pelican case;
  • One Falcon Safety Sonic Blast air horn;
  • Two Orion SOLAS red parachute signal rockets (1,000 ft altitude!);
  • Four Orion handheld red flares;
  • One Garmin GPSMap 78 with extra AA batteries;
  • One Paddlers Supply Co. LED deck light with suction cup base;
  • One Fenix HM50R LED headlamp with extra CR123 batteries;

And where did the idea come from that he wasn’t wearing a sprayskirt? I suppose that someone said something like “He was chumming for sharks. We don’t even know if he had a sprayskirt” or something of that ilk and then it got picked up and repeated.

The voices of reason here have been paddlers who have come to this site for a sense of community and knowledge. The very paddlers that we seemingly bitter boomers are so dedicated to protecting from their folly and assumed inability to make heads or tails from “the facts” and will die if we don’t save them. The thing is, they don’t want to be “saved”. They came here to learn and feel accepted and once again we are doing our best to drive them away. Seriously folks…we can do better than this.

I’m glad that this thread is calming down. Maybe now we can all get back to paddling, learning and move on.


I came here being around big water on the Great Lakes my whole live and with a great respect for the water and at the same time I was absolutely new to paddling for the most part.

I didn’t find any advice I was given as condescending or anything like that. But at the same time I saw people with great advanced skill levels talking about what for me were very risky adventures as if anyone and everyone would enjoy having a go at. It is not so much they are encouraging people to do these things as more there is no caveat placed what you need to know before trying. Even that isn’t totally true as there is more than enough common sense warnings of risk and safety throughout the forum.

I come at it from a point of having lived a long life and having self-awareness of my own abilities that’s why I’m here to build on that. I don’t see that in all people though and for a lot of people it seems to be oh that looks fun and exciting I think I will try it. Where I live on a river that has claimed its fair share of people’s lives all it takes to be a kayaker is a trip to WalMart and 300 bucks in your pocket. I hate to see undo risk but more and more I realize there is little I can do about it. The question for me is always how much should I do about it?

Last year as one example I was watching a young couple load a couple kayaks and I would have hated to be following them down the road as they had some serious problems. I wanted to take 5 minutes and teach them something and the person I was with reminded me I was not the kayak police. I see 100s of young people set out in cold water not dressed for immersion with PFDs crammed under their deck only having one because it is the law. I see people seeking adventure set out when the river gage height is warning people to stay off.

People like this guy IMO glamorize risk taking and that is fine, but they should also show what they have done to prepare for it and give advice that honestly will help others thinking of doing the same. The problem I see is most people prone to do these things and not being fully prepared as this guy wasn’t, don’t see the risk they are taking and don’t even after the fact realize it. If you land on your feet enough times you begin to think you will always land on your feet.

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And that is ABSOLUTELY the best advice, followed by joining a club and developing your cohort of partners. Don’t like what you read here? Don’t know who is “real” here, or not? Don’t like the critiques, or can’t get the “advice” that aligns with your thinking? Well chuck PNet and go play in real life. There you’ll find the actual “doing”, learning, and the “give and take” that are needed to actually become a competent “paddler” for whatever venue that you wish to be engaged in. A day out there would be better than a month of reading/posting on PNet.



Bud16415, well said. Watching the NC alligator attack made me realized the insignificance of my experience. Its taxing enough instructing members of my family, so is a bit presumtious for me to offer advice to a stranger. That creepy feeling I get from getting close to the edge limits my adventures. It may limit my fun, but it keeps me alive. It works for me, and I definitely don’t want to dampen anyone’s adventure. I can’t help thinking how history would play out if Shackleton asked my opinion about exploring Antarctica.


I’m new here and have found this to be a good board. Welcoming. Lots of experience, and plenty of people learning from that experience of others. It’s a good board.

All that said… I’ve had plenty of adventures myself. I’ve done things right, and I’ve done things tragically wrong. Something about the original story … just… well… I’ll leave it at that.

Welcome, Riverguy2, look forward to hearing your adventures.

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There have several posts in this thread accusing members of this board of “bloviating” or being mean-spirited elitists who enjoy picking on unsuspecting newbies. That bothers me because I have been involved on this board for years and know that there are lots of knowledgeable people here who share their expertise freely. So I went back and re-read the blog (which was fascinating), and listened to the recording (which was terrifying – especially to hear him get more desparate about half way through and then go silent when his radio apparently died).

My personal opinion – this was such a crazy trip, and this guy made so many risky decisions that I am surprised that he actually made it back the harbor before he needed to be rescued. I won’t go into the reasons because folks like @sing, @seadart, @celia, @RC51Mike, @rstevens15, and @tDaniel have already done a great job of that. Sometimes it is tough to “put lipstick on a pig”. Calling out risky decisions for what they are isn’t being mean, its just being realistic.

My standard for safety when paddling alone – if I can’t self-rescue and get myself and my gear back to shore, I don’t do the trip. I know that is easier for river paddlers where swimming to shore is usually less of a problem, but I abide by it in open water as well.

Apologies if I sound like a “PNet elitist”.