Storm at Sea?

I’m just curious. How rough a sea could an expert kayaker survive? Would a storm of any size cause repeated capsizes until the paddler grew too tired to roll up?

Cold and exposure
the boat will take all hell and a good paddler will keep her upright as long as he or she can stay awake. Cold and exposure will be what eventually kills you.

Even then in a nice warm environment in a PFD you could get out of the boat hook your tow line to her and rest in the water for a while. With luck the dive reflex will help.

Pointy rocks, cold, exhaustion and perhaps fear are the enimies.

That is my spin on it anyway.

The kayak unlike other boats is part of the wave and its strength is that it CAN’T fight the sea, she is part of it.

a storm
of ‘any’ size?

well a little tiny one prolly wouldn’t knock a ‘expert’ paddler over in the first place.

what alex said. cold, exposure, exhaustion.

steve(who battled a 30 knot ‘storm’ for 3 hrs yesterday w/o flipping)

absolutely, but define 'any size’
The book Sea Kayak Safety and Rescue has this to say about Beaufort Scale Force 10 wind/sea state…

48-55 knot winds, huge waves with over hanging, breaking crests, sea is white with spray and foam, very dangerous; survival situation; only real option is to run with the wind or possibly deploy a sea anchor.

not to brag
but I have paddled in steady 50 knots gusting 60 in the Columbia gorge. while not a ‘sea’ condition with a relatively short fetch, it WAS 50 knots of push from the wind. 6-8’ swells and literally 5 gallon buckets of water blown off the tops of waves. There is a 2-3’ layer of ‘fog’ over the water from the airbourne mist.

pretty fun actually. never flipped once in 25 downwind miles. Was able to do just about everything I wanted to BUT paddle back upwind!

There were 3 of us and one fellow DID have some trouble. he couldn’t stay with the group. personal problem I guess…he NEVER could!


Those buckets of rain must
have really hurt – literally.

Just a pet peeve of mine – using literally when you mean figuratively.

I’m over it now…


Wow …
I don’t have a lot of experience in very high winds, but I have been on 6-8’ breaking wave faces in a 9’ surf boat with 40-50 kt howling winds, where the boat becomes airbone on the lip and and spins and pivots from the wind spray on the tops of the wave with sea spray going everywhere and hitting like a sand blaster. Just staying oriented and being able to see was a huge issue, the paddle became a beast that wanted to do its own thing entirely. It was best to stay in the wind shadow of wave mounds and surf in. Don’t think I would have lasted for hours.

Gotta ask
Impressive, no way I’d stay upright for that long in those conditions. But gotta ask - did anyone have a GPS turned on somewhere to find out how fast you were going?

you are an exceptional paddler
a lesser paddler would have been in trouble.

And if you were to up the ‘storm level’ it could have made life more difficult.

you were going in the right direction—downwind but I suppose in those conditions there is only one direction to go in anyway

Wave Size?
Ok, but are 6-8ft swells typical of storm conditions? I would think that out at sea the conditions could get a lot rougher than that.

where is the description of that? I came across it once in the archives–an absolutely bone-chilling read! Definitely a candidate for the hall of fame. Can you find it and repost it here? A great read.


How big do you want?
Seriously, this is bringing up some interesting stories but what are you looking for that would inform your own paddling? What someone like flatpick can handle may not be at all relevant to assessing your own risks.

wave size
depends on two factors—wind velocity and fetch—probably in the Columbia River Gorge there was high velocity but short fetch which is defined as the distance wind blows unimpeded over water. 50 knots with 6-8’ waves is pretty significant in a kayak.

happened to the guy who couldn’t stay with the group? Did he finish way ahead of you or way behind or did he finish at all?

not really. not sure if I ever wrote that one up.

typically, when I lived in Portland, we would go search out the winter easterlies in the gorge. Summer westerlies blows against the current and aren’t nearly as much fun to surf…but it’s warm! Easterlies go with the flow!

One day 3 of us decided it was going off big (Nuclear in windsurf terms- 50+ knots) and we were up for the challenge. Numerous 40 knot days were the norm. 25 miles in 4 hours, skeg down sleigh rides. When we stopped at the Phoca Rock/ Cape Horn overlook you could barely stand. the wind blew both of my truck side mirrors flat against the cab! the water actually looks pretty calm with this sheet of fog pretty much covering the water surface.

We put on all our clothes (think the temp was in the high 30’s) gloves, hoods and helmets and set off. It was pretty fun ‘cept one of the fellows was having a hard time staying close. The other fellow and I finally pulled over at Rooster Rock state park and waited for him. We rested by laying down with our heads up inside the cockpits. the only place you weren’t being sandblasted! On shore I got some 50 knot readings on my wind guage. Once out on the water I managed to get some gusts to 60. holding the guage in one hand and bracing with my GP with the other was a chore. My buddy couln’t believe I was doing it!

Yes the buckets of rain (figuratively, of course) were painful. it was kinda funny you’d be surfing along and ruddering then all at once a bucket o’ water would hit you! Later we did GPS readings of 10-12 knots surfing on a 40+ knot day. I could do 4 knots w/o paddling, just sitting there!

BTW- this is a great way to test boats! We both spent alot of time doing spins to face upwind, paddling in reverse (back surfing) and trying to manouver in the seas. It’s do-able. The other fellow was a bit gripped and never really got the feel for manouvering. he was a survival paddler.

bone-chilling…well yes with the wind chill factor! kinda miss those days. Cindy, Falcon and I have been out a few time down here at the coast when it’s been 35-45 knots but the gorge really kicks butt when it comes to wind!


Maybe he is writing a book …
There is a california romance writer who frequents a local bulletin board I belong to where she writes and posts questions about the authenticity of what she writes about surfing and the ocean. I actually suggested the title for one of her books but her publisher did not like it :frowning: .

Does a bay like Chesapeake count …

– Last Updated: Aug-26-08 3:49 PM EST –

....... not that I have , or would paddle in the storm conditions I've been in on the Chesapeake , but I also would say , no one else would either .

In CC power boats , one a 17'x 75 hp. , the other a 20'x 150 hp. , at night , pitch dark . Early on (young) with my first CC 17' , I stayed a bit too long and the storm caught me . It raged as I headed in , I was alone and fortunately had just got the compass red light wired and working . It was over 2 hrs. in that water , back to my launch . I could have made safe harbor sooner and closer but was doing OK considering . And that was just a big blow with horizontal rains and heavy water of the 6' type .
I guarantee you wouldn't have paddled in anything like that !!

Another memorable storm at night was unexpected even by FSS briefers . A 20' CC this time . Many moons later and thousands of hrs. under my belt at night . This one came up out of no where , had no rains just extremely high winds . Took 2 hrs. to make safe harbor . The bay is only about 5-6 miles wide there , so that ought to tell you something when I say it took over 2 hrs. at least to make safe harbor .

The swells/waves where about 24'-28' top to bottom with breaking crest . I tried to turn into the wind and waves to retreat because that would have been the shortest way out . As I cleared the top of the crest on the first attempt (full throtle) , The 20' CC stood on her ass and tried a back flip , teetered there a few seconds and fortunately dropped her nose down the long sliding board on the other side , as she dove down I pulled off the throtle , when i met the bootom the bow submerged and bounced back out again . The water rushing in almost took me off my feet but I had a death grip on the console and wheel .

I was not about to do that twice , so immediately turned full wheel and as the next swell began to lift the boat again , I full throtled into the turn . The turn was accomplished on the face of the wave and the result was running with the waves/swells and the wind for the next 2 hrs. trying to angle towards shore as much as was possible .

I guarantee you wouldn't be paddling in stuff like that !! Some of you paddling storm yahoos and your stories crack me up ..

If you can call the Chesapeak a form of open water (or reasonably big water) , then I have seen and experienced storms and high winds conditions many times . You won't be there , I guarantee it . If you are , you'll need rescue or breath in the water , which ever comes first ..

ps., this ain't braggin , this is the stuff (mean water and storms) , I consider survival events . Anyone who says they would take on such conditions in a small boat , especially paddling , willingly and presumptiously , well , I have to think they have an of over vivid imagination ..

So Capt’n Ahab?
If’n it war a 24’ wave and yo war in a 20’ boat … how long was that “long sliding board on the other side”?

Steve’s yarn sounds a bit more credible to me.

SYOTW or not.

seadart , I don’t think …

– Last Updated: Aug-26-08 6:53 PM EST –

........ you have a clue about it .. or you wouldn't have to ask ... sorry bro .

As I said , this isn't braggin , it's a life or death situation / condition . Nothing to bragg about there .
That's the way big water and winds in little boats are . A paddler wouldn't stand a chance except by miracle . Same with a 20' CC ..

At the time I wasn't at all certain that I would live through it until the boat made safe harbor and was anchored down . Not until that very moment !!

As for the "long slide" , it goes like this .
The waves / swells and their crest were on the bow breaking at me after I turned around into them to retreat . The winds were strong and steady at 40-50 on the nose , blowing in the same direction as the swells were moving , I think the tide was aslo coming in with the wind but not sure anymore , it could have been running out ??

The bow of the boat blows through the the rolling crest , under full throtle she is standing almost vertical on her ass . The intire length of the boat is vertical and in the air . Then she breaks over and , then the fall to the bottom . The bow drops a good 40+ feet and slams into the bottom of the trough . Big splash !! I'm about midship at the console . Big ride bro !! The force of the wind is holding her almost straight up and she wants to back flip . It is pitch dark , and I find I am glad it is because I probably would have lost nerve if I was able to see more clearly what I was in . Everything from there on in was 80% feel as to throtle , direction and all was in attempt to ride the back side of the swells / waves near the top . That required 3/4 to full throtle to hold position and many times , I did lose it over the top or slide back down into the trough , only to recover and continue .

Do you understand what I just told you ??
"It took 3/4 to full throtle" to stay on the back side of the swells and keep up with them . Going over the top of them and being on the face side again by misfortune of throtle judgement was (what I percieve paddlers to deem "surfing downwind") was an awful dangerous place to be . The only hope was to beat the crest you just fell over to the next backside of the next swell up in front of you , and try to stay there . Good Lord help you if the swell you just fell over catches up to you from behind !!

From the bottom of the swells , it looks like you are in 100' hole , but you know it's not that bad .

You have a minute of panic where your heart is trying to bust out of your chest , and then you either take control as the pilot of the craft , or die .

That's how it really goes my friend .. I don't need for you to think my post is credable or not , I was there ..