The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

My friend Alex encountered some challenges that exceeded his resources last week. He just posted a report of the trip on his website.

Take a read.

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WOW! I would loved to been there taking photos, but would not have paddled there. What a memory. Glad he survived. When he said Chum, I knew what was coming next. Blue Sharks are more common than Whites. A competent paddler and knowledgeable of local area, but bit off more than he could chew. I suspect sea sickness and fatigue were factors. I love the Coast Guard!

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I second the WOW!. Absolutely amazing and way beyond my skill set. Big tanks to the fishermen and the CG.

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I’ll third that WOW.

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Good read. One thing I took from that (for what I want out of my kayaking): learn to roll.

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what a great read!

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If you have a chance and want to read more about Alex’s trips take a look here: Alex Sidles Kayaking Trip Reports

I’m glad there are people who are adventurers so I can vicariously experience activities I would never attempt.
Based on advice from another post, he should take a course on combat use of a pistol. And leave the thing home.

Fantastic read! I cannot imagine being a kayaker who suffers from sea sickness. I’m very fortunate in that regard. I have been on boats in the ocean where even the captain was vomiting and I was loving the rough seas. Poor guy.

This part makes me really want to paddle the ocean at night - probably not solo, though: “There was beauty and terror on the ocean at night.”

“The night is dark and full of terrors”

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A glimpse into the way another person sees things, into their sense of reality. Definitely an entertaining read. For example, the description of the interaction with the whale is something like how I might imagine an audibly whistling caterpillar in the middle of a quiet basketball court describing its interaction with me. Admirable bravery and sense of wonder and adventure, in my opinion, decidedly outweighed by other factors. I’m glad he’s ok.

If I still lived in Florida I would paddle out the 1 mile to the Gulf Stream from Singer Island (perhaps at night). It has an average 4mph flow north so would want a shuttle somewhere north to take out. Which means I would want others on the trip too. The area has changed drastically since I was a boy so don’t know what it’s like anymore.

Grew up fishing out there with my Dad. The flying fish were fun to see. They do that to escape predators. We caught Sailfish, Wahoo, Bull Dolphin (Mahi-mahi), Kingfish, Blues, Snapper, Jacks, Barracuda, Bonita, Trigger Fish, and other stuff too. Had a big shark take possibly the biggest king fish I ever caught leaving me with just the head. That’s how we knew it was a big kingfish.

You watch for sea birds diving to find the schools the big fish are feeding on. Have seen Frigate birds out there before. One time fishing off of Palm Beach in a school of Kingfish the sharks got into them. They were coming out of the water like rockets at the Cape. Straight up in the air all around the boat. Big fish and you wouldn’t want one to hit you. Have seen whales blow in the distance a few times, but didn’t see the whales.

I would have a bucket on the boat so I could net up the floating Sargasso Weed. It would have all kinds of stuff in it. Like the funny looking Sargasso fish and small Sargasso shrimp, small crabs, even baby sea turtles. The beach from Singer Island to Jupiter was a favorite for nesting sea turtles.

This is a walk down memory lane for me.

Some old photos of my Dad and some of his fish caught in the Gulf Stream a mile offshore.



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One question I would ask of the ocean experienced forum members here, is this:

While being in that situation, would Alex, if knowing how, we’re to have executed a roll recovery, would (or could) it have made a difference for him, that night?

The reason I ask is because recently attending an ACA wet exit/ rescue class (using my own kayak), I’m enrolled in another one scheduled soon. It will be a more advanced class paddling a rented (NDK) sea kayak (my own CD Kestrel 140 is nice, but it is a rec boat).

I believe attending a third class held in a coastal ocean environment, and including roll recovery training, would be of great benefit.

I’m not too interested in being in rough water situations where roll recoveries are needed - but rolling seems to be a good skill to learn (and practice). It would also help add self confidence while out on the water.

That’s why I wonder - would it have made a difference for Alex that night, and in those turbulent sea conditions, if he had known how to execute a roll recovery?

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Maybe, maybe not. No one has an entirely bomb proof roll. He could have had a fantastic roll and gotten repeatedly knocked back over until he had to wet exit, and had the same results. Or not. And while I am in no way judging him, I will say that I wouldn’t have gone out in those conditions, especially not solo, without a damn good roll in the boat I would be using.

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Maybe!

Rolling in pools and quiet water is a good skill to learn and practice. It should make you a more confident paddler and bring you to a new skill level.

Being proficient at rolling after being battered about and maybe dragged in a rolling surf is kayak rolling at a completely different level and is challenging (and fun) but not for the faint of heart. And it takes practice too. Additionally it takes keeping cool under pressure when you are not in control until the sea action releases you for maybe a few seconds when you can again roll up.

PS - I’ve never paddled or rolled in the Great NW.

Adding to the comments above.

If he had a roll and it worked, he would have popped back up and then hopefully continued to get out of the breaking waves (or maybe get flipped over again starting the whole process over again).

Regarding your class, the roll is generally a separate track from sea kayak rescues. Usually involves a set of 2 to 4 short (1-2 hour) classes to get you doing a basic roll in a pool. You then need to keep practicing at it to get the roll to move from a pool roll toward being a combat roll. If you don’t practice, you will start losing what you have.

For most people, a proficient paddlefloat and T-rescue is all you need for sea kayaking (exception being surfing and rock gardening, where a roll would be very helpful to required, depending on where you are doing it).

Where I teach, we have a 3 class progression. The first is the basic intro to sea kayaking, which covers strokes and lots of basics and a single form of both paddlefloat and T-rescue in protected water near shore. The second class reviews the strokes and covers a few more (the rudder strokes and the like) and then redoes the paddlefloat and T-rescue, including various options for each, doing it further from shore but in water that is still pretty flat. Add in cowboy scramble. The 3rd class is mostly a tides and currents class (big concern here in SF Bay area), but we do the paddlefloat and t-rescues again as part of that in a choppy tide rip.

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…hope I didn’t mislead you, Peter. My first class was in a small central Florida lake. Calm water, relatively clean, and where instructors are able to stand close by while observing wet exits and so forth. Kind of like having a swimming pool.

I recently started using a cockpit skirt, especially for the open water areas where I paddle. I was advised that if using a skirt - then by all means, be trained to do it.

Getting good training nearby here, especially during red algae outbreaks, sewage and fertilizer plant outflows, harmful algal blooms, bacterial water issues, record numbers of expired Manatee(s), and … (well that’s enough, really). Oh, and seldom being in the proper COVID ‘bubble’ for joining tours or training groups.

Unfortunately, the first class was interrupted by thunderstorm/lightening weather avoidance maneuvers. They invited me back, no extra charge, to repeat that class adding assisted rescues.

I asked if I could rent their Romany instead of using my own kayak. Not for roll training, but to experience an ocean kayak known for excellent maneuverability and being a good training kayak. Rolls were not mentioned - but if we finish, and conditions are good enough - I will ask for the opportunity to do at least one under supervision.

Now, if our luck holds out (and I pray it does) during the Fall and Winter training north of here, in St. Augustine, holds many learning opportunities in the Atlantic (near shore) and estuaries inside the barrier island area.

And if luck is really with us, Qajaq USA (TRAQS) is hosting an event, at another fine lake, where rolling will be taught in the manner you described.

Thank you for being an active paddling instructor, Peter. Learning is a treasure. Teaching is a gift.

Cheers

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“It was not a sudden sharp blow. It was a building, inexorable push”

Knowing how to roll doesn’t mean you are proficient handling your kayak in such situations. But not knowing how to roll represents nearly an insurmountable barrier. The description suggested to me his boat took off surfing, and he tipped, vs dropping into a violent wave break where there really isn’t much controlling what the boat does for the next few moments. But I don’t know what it really was like for certain. Being tired and seasick and hungry and likely thirsty after having spent the prior night on the water means reactions need to be pretty instinctual. That means spending a lot of time in whitecapped, crumbling, and breaking waves. It would be very hard to develop if you had to swim every time you flipped. There is also competency inherent within the ability to roll that goes beyond rolling. It will actually be the biggest factor in preventing capsize in the first place.

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…so well stated. Thank you. That is my reason for wanting to learn to roll (practice, yes - needing to roll? Well, not so much)

For many years, I helped new pilots learn to fly (and/or old pilots to familiarize themselves with new equipment). Maneuvers (and avoidance procedures) were taught so that pilots would recognize situations early and be proficient enough to avoid upset progression.

Thanks again.

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Interesting read. I correctly assumed there would be some discussion about the lack of a roll. I’m strongly of the mindset that once you make the commitment to solo trips such as this, the lack of a roll not only unnecessarily puts you at risk, but also others that will respond to your distress signal. Yes, there are conditions in which your roll can fail you, and this might have been one even if he had a good roll. We’ll never know, but again if you are committing to trips like this, I don’t think that committing to learning how to roll is unreasonable. Multiple boats responded, meaning multiple people put themselves at risk.

I’m looking at this from a the position of a former swiftwater rescue team leader and instructor. The VAST majority of our rescues were people whose desire for fun and adventure far exceeded their desire for training and preparedness. It’s a lot more fun to paddle than train and practice, besides, that’s what the rescue teams are for, right?

I don’t know this gentleman, and am certainly glad he is okay, especially with his mention of wife and kids. As a birder, his trip seemed amazing to me, and I appreciate his write-up.

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