Tell us about your close calls

Anybody ever had a close call that required or almost required a rescue? Describe what happened, what you learned from it, what measures could have been taken to prevent it, or what safety gear was or would have been helpful.

It may be embarrassing to tell, but I know I can speak for all of us in saying that we’d rather learn from other’s mistakes than to find out the hard way on our own.

trapped in a kayak
I was practicing rolling, or trying to roll to be more exact, as I couldn’t roll yet. I would tip over, try to roll up, and then wet exit and swim back to shore. After a few tries, my shoelace got caught in my rudder controls. I couldn’t get out, couldn’t roll back up. All I could do was get my head out of the water for a quick breath and then go back under, which I did over and over until I was tipped back up by a boater that saw me. By the time I was saved, I was nearly exhausted. That was pretty close to the end of me.

I never ever wear shoes in the boat now, it’s always barefoot.

going barefoot while rolling
I was rolling the squirtboat

while barefoot. My outfitting is a bit loose for the summer, as I’m generally in a drysuit, and I was sliding around a bit. When I was done rolling, I had two silver dollar pieces of skin missing from my feet, abraded from the kevlar. I never ever paddle barefoot anymore.

I remember cutting off all the laces on my mukluks one year…as I was cutting them off I was thinking that I was being overly cautious…guess not!

Glad you made out ok.

Yeah, here’s one

– Last Updated: Jan-04-10 1:24 PM EST –

We were paddling in a group of 8 off the MA coast. Six of us knew each other well and had paddled and trained together, but there were a couple of newcomers. We six were well equipped with emergency gear and radios, which we knew how to use. We were all adequately clothed for the conditions (dry suits). The conditions were relatively benign with a 5-10 knot breeze and 1'-2' seas. The water and air temps were upper 40's - low 50's, with the sun making frequent appearances. Everything seemed set for a fun day on the water.

In the middle of a 1.5 mile open crossing, one of our six became incapacitated suddenly and could not keep himself upright and moving. Three of our six stayed with him for a while as he slowed to a crawl and we realized we needed to raft up another paddler with him (a nurse practitioner, no less) and put him on tow. Two others of our six paddlers just paddled off in the interim, with the two "unknowns" following them, leaving just the three of us to deal with the towing situation. By the time we realized they were gone, they were too far off to hear whistles or horns. We tried to radio them, but their radios were turned off! UGH! We weren't happy about it, but we were OK for the moment. Our strongest paddler (an EMT) took the towing duty and I paddled "shotgun" with the towing group in case there were any problems or the towing paddler needed to be spelled. So far, so good.

The two paddlers that took off not only pulled away from us, but they also left the two "unknowns" in the dust, leaving them in "no man's land" and me as the only available resource if something went wrong in either group. Of course, a few minutes later, one of the "unknowns" capsized and wet exited. At that point, we were still nearly 1/2 mile offshore. I paddled ahead to rescue the capsized paddler, as his companion had no idea how to help him. That left the towing group with no backup, but there was no choice. The faster paddlers had reached shore, but they just stood there and watched us, even when we waived paddles at them!

I got the swimmer back in his boat and composed, then the three of us joined the towing group. He was a bit chilled, embarrassed and surprised, but basically OK. This time, we all stayed together and we eventually made it to shore without further incident. Needless to say, there were heated exchanges at that point and the two who arrived first were sent paddling off to get their vehicles, so we could get our stricken companion to medical attention. He was feeling well enough at that point that he and the medical professionals in our group didn't feel emergency medical attention was necessary.

The stricken paddler slowly recovered and by the time the cars arrived, he felt good enough that waited until the next day to visit his doctor. No cause for his problem was ever found, nor has he suffered the same issue again. We blamed it on the Adkins diet he had been following. ;-)

There are several morals to this story:

- Know the people you paddle with and their skill levels, then structure the trip accordingly.

- More importantly, make sure you're all on the same page and that you can communicate with each other in the case of an emergency.

- Bad things happen unexpectedly to good paddlers, through no fault of their own or anyone else. You always have to be prepared.

- Things can get very bad, very quickly. If the paddler who capsized had further trouble or we had more serious problems with the stricken paddler, things could have gotten ugly. We were basically down two strikes and one more could have done the group in. On top of that, an offshore wind was pushing us out to sea. Had things gotten worse, hopefully, the two onshore would have come back to help, but it would have taken them 15 minutes or more to reach us. A lot can happen in that amount of time.

- Training is IMPORTANT! Luckily for the four of us that stayed together, we had practiced injured paddler scenarios, towing techniques and multiple rescues in difficult conditions. We did what we were trained to do and it worked out OK. We also knew each other very well, trusted each others' judgment and had the ability to summon help if necessary. If we hadn't had the benefit of that training, things might have gotten out of control.

Fortunately, we can all laugh about it now.

EDIT: I left out one more important lesson: When you're paddling with a group, look behind you periodically. In many cases, that's the only way you'll see that you're separated from the group or that a problem has occurred.

How is this advice, suggestions, or
general help? Pnet has a discussion forum that needs topics like this. In fact, this isn’t a new topic.

I got hit in December by 45 mph winds on the Chesapeake Bay. I couldn’t get back to the boat ramp, which was 5 miles away (headwind). Very nasty, but I had the good sense to get to shore, knock on a stranger’s door, and get a ride back to the ramp. They were very happy to help.

-Always plan to return to your landing with a following wind

-Be humble enough to ask for help when things get hairy

-Stay in more sheltered areas when winds exceed 25 mph

Another time on the James River by Richmond, VA I was almost run over by a New York City Garbage Barge that came up behind me.

-Use only one earpiece of your i-Pod when paddling and listen for boats with the other ear.


could be considered general help …

– Last Updated: Jan-02-10 6:00 PM EST –

...... or advise g2d , as in "what not to do" ??

I used to read a flying mag. and there was this one reg. monthy article called ... I Learned About Flying from That (this ??) ,

by reading about others mishaps / misfortune or mistakes , I think it stuck in my mind better than just reading something like "don't do this or that , or else" ... it sort of makes it more real when we try to relate to anothers mishap .

A kind of advise I think , given in the context of the aftermath and consequences paid ??

Because I tend to be inquisitive and curious where the line or limits are for myself in a particular thing ... it's helpful to hear where others went too far or bit off more than they could chew so to speak .

Lots of times I hear people trying to place the blame for something that went wrong on anything , or anyone ... other than theirself , or at least downplaying their own responsibility .

When I trained to fly it was drilled into me that ... I was the pilot in command and the buck stopped right there ... no matter what the condition or reason for things not going as expected , I was to be responsible for the outcome ... when it comes to things that have a greater risk factor , I think that has carried over for me to good extent .

The old saying that goes , "the more I know , the more I know how much I don't know" fits this kind of advise .

I’ll Keep it Short

– Last Updated: Jan-05-10 4:34 PM EST –

I tried to come in an inlet when the tide was going out. No rescues needed and I didn't come out of the boat but the boat WAS out of control for awhile. Lessons learned: Be at the inlet right at tide change or have the tide on my side. Have a strong brace and reliable roll.

Once the wind picked up way more than was predicted. I was knocked over by a big wave from my 5:00 o'clock and I took a swim. Lessons learned: Have a strong brace and a reliable roll. Be ready to roll if you think one might be forced on you.

I have had several real close calls…
going beside pilings that have had Comorants sitting on them !

What I learned from it: Allow another paddler to go first to take the splat.



Wrightsville Beach - Almost a Dead Duck
A friend loaned me his old fiberglass kayak to try and I did even though I had never kayaked. I just thought I could get in and start paddling having never seen it done before and had a cold and rude awakening, almost drowning. No skirt, no PFD, no CLUE.

The fellow I borrowed from was a duck hunter and had cut out a square hatch just behind the cockpit and it was on hinges, I found out later he used that area for decoys.

So I got in and pointed it toward the waves and started paddling and unfortunately got through the first two sets of waves only to be out in water just over my head. On the next wave the cockpit and decoy hole had me 1/4 way full of water so i went over ripping my legs on the exposed fiberglass. Now I am in 6’ of water with waves crashing over me, tide pulling me toward the jetty, trying to hold on to this splintered old fiberglass anvil(nothing about it floated full of water) determined I have to get it back to shore because it was borrowed.

It took me thirty minutes of struggle and swallowing a gallon of salt water but I finally got to shore, exhausted. Even before I ever owned a kayak I developed a true appreciation for instruction, a PFD, bulkheads, watertight hatches, and common sense which I exhibited zero that day.

It was the by far the most dangerous thing I have ever done. STUPID!

are you writing a book
or an article for the National Enquirer, bwarthur?

NIce Springtime Paddle
A friend and i were out for the first time in the spring a few years ago. We had both just gotten new boats over the winter and we were eager to try them out. So we started paddling into the wind on the backside of an island as a wind break, going generally into what wind their was so it would be an easy paddle back. We got accross the mouth of the small bay behind the island and decided to work our way back around the bay, exploring the flooded areas while the ater was high. So my friend starts putting the boat up on edge, testing it out to see how far he could ge before having to brace. Needless to say of all times to miss a brace of course it’s when the water is extremely cold still. So he goes in, flips over. The water is freezing so he blows his roll and wet exits, which isn’t a big deal, we’re like 20 feet from shore, he swims his boat in, i grab his paddle. That could have been bad if we were farther out

So then he’s getting cold from being wet so we decide to paddle back accross the mouth of the bay to where we started, but by this time the wind has swing around and we’re getting pummeled from the side by 3-4 foot waves. From being cold from his earlier dip he’s losing feeling enough in his legs to throw off his balance, so then these big waves dump him again, but this time in the middle of the bay, the waves and wind making it hard to me to turn around. I finally get to him and it takes 4 or 5 tries for me to steady his boat in the waves enough for him to climb in. So he bails enoug to make a run for shore, i give him my spare paddle and go in search of his while he goes to shore. I finally get to where his paddle has drifted away from us and turn around and see he’s made it to shore, which is about a 20 foot high cliff he can’t get out anywhere on. So he’s paddling along in a boat half full of water, trying to keep from getting thrown into the cliff while keeping his boat upright.

This could have turned out alot worse than it finally did. We slowly creeped our way back to our launch site, but by this time his legs were almost completely numb. I went in first and pulled him out of the water as best i could, but even then as soon as he stood up out of his boat he fell back into the water again because his legs were soo cold. Bad situation that could have been alot worse.

Things to avoid next time:

-New boat testing in uncertain circumstances

-Not dressing for the colder conditions

-Not practising rescues enough for when stuff gos bad

only in the most obvious sense
Read the original post: “We’d rather learn from others’ mistakes than to find out the hard way on our own.” He’s asking for advice.

G2d do you have something else to do?
other than whine constantly. This entire thread contains plenty of ADVICE to paddlers. I am sick of your constant policing of threads, if you don’t like this thread then don’t read it.

I’m sure those two
in a certain sense are very nice people, but in a certain sense they are also obviously jerks. Simply inconsiderate. Got all that training and can’t be bothered to turn around.

that boat sells today on craigslist
for $25

Advice, suggestions and general help
Lesson #1: Learn from others’ mistakes. The best thing I ever did was read Matt Broze’s “Deep Troubles”, a compendium of accident reports from Sea Kayak Magazine. From that I learned: 1) dress for the swim (e.g. a drysuit), 2) wear a PFD, 3) have a boat that floats (i.e. with bulkheads), 4) carry VHF, 5) leave a float plan, 6) have 2 or 3 reliable rescues under your belt (learn to roll, etc.), 7) practice rescue skills.

Lesson #2: Edging while crossing an eddyline is not the most important thing. The most important thing is to remember which direction to edge!

Lesson #3: Wind speed matters. It is extremely hard to turn a 17-foot kayak in 30 mph wind. (Something I didn’t know until it happened to me.)

Lesson #4: Remember your kayak is on your car before you drive into the garage.

Lesson #5: Disregard g2d.

Good Judgement…

– Last Updated: Jan-03-10 10:59 AM EST –

gets ingrained more often from one's own hard-earned bad experiences... :)

Not that one can't benefit from the experiences of others. But, often when you hear dogmatic safety proclamations here, it is often from those who are learning from the "mistakes" of others and glomming on those like words of the bible.

One someone goes through (survives) bad experiences, folks often realize it's often shades of grey with multiple factors that could have pushed outcomes one way or another.


PS. For some, ain't fun unless there are some close calls involved.... From the school of hard knocks. :)


We made the news
in a bad way. Back in 06 we travelled to Harrisburg to purchase a used kayak from an individual. He suggested a “nice family float” down the Susquehanna River and try his boat out at the same time. Had we put in below the Dauphin Narrows - the water was much calmer and completely different which we would have been fine.(he lives on the river) Big Mistake. We are not river current paddlers nor class 2 paddlers in swift current and our own boats were very new to us (my tempest) Plus we were not accomplished paddlers either. Trust your instincts. Mine said the current was far too fast for my comfort. Never paddle a river without knowing what you will encounter ahead period. We didnt know the swiftness and confused water with rebar and rocks at Dauphin Narrows. Nor did we know to go river left - i chose the worst possible place (typical!). I capsized after riding up onto a rock- hubby capsized down river trying to turn in the swift current - my 2 kids made it thru screaming but we couldnt get to them -he yelled to them to get to shore (not much shoreline there either). They were left alone which could have turned very dangerous. Hubby had everything in his boat -water/radio/bilge pump - another big mistake. We made many. After many hours I was finally rescued with a rope which i tied off and got pulled to an island as neither River Rescue boats could get near me without possibly injuring me with their boats from the fast moving current. What a miserable day but many many lessons learned for us that day. I will never paddle blindly by a strangers suggestions (unless he is a paddle guide) and we will be much better prepared in each kayak. Our kids wrote school papers on this incident also. (one just wrote his college essay on it!)