What skill set?

Reading through many of posts here I was wondering what skill set would be needed for a trip down the Ohio River and on to Kentucky lake? The plan is to put in at Maysville Ky and travel to Kenlake State park on Ky lake. This will be a solo trip. The kayak is a Prijon Kodiak. Trip will be in late October or early November of this year if I feel comfortable enough with kayaking skills.

Some folks say I need to have a good roll, others say its not needed for this kind of trip.

I know Ky Lake can become quite choppy with windy conditions. I’m thinking most recreational boaters will be done for the season at the time of year I plan to do this.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Survival skills

– Last Updated: Jun-04-12 5:07 PM EST –

Solo means absolutely no support, right ?
Any training, classes, first responder, etc., etc.?

Where are the kayak skills coming from:
- formalized classes, instructors, etc. or
just winging it with some self practice ?

Profile said beginner - don't know what other
background in the outdoors you may have.

A bunch of pre-planning, brainstorming what-if,
redundancy of gear, and a solid mindset take
people a long ways.


– Last Updated: Jun-04-12 6:04 PM EST –

no support during the trip.
First aid field skills I'm very confident in due to my lifes training and work for 30 years.

Camping and basic survival skills are good as that is another hobby of mine. Camping mindset is of the "leave no trace" philosophy and leans towards the ultralight type gear.

In water skills are good as I used to teach scuba diving and spent time preparing for wreck penetration and cave diving. It doesn't bother me to be upside down in the water because I know how to respond to underwater emergencies and mishaps. Currently I don't like flipping over in the kayak because I am left with a wet exit and then swim the kayak to shore.

The plan now regarding kayaking skills as they are identified to me as important is to learn what I can reasonably on my own, take classes for things that are best done with an instructor i.e. rollingfor example(real good instructor within 50 miles).

Have been making preliminary plans, for many months, regarding travel on the river, locking through, places to stay and resupply etc.

Forgot to mention that late fall early winter are my preferred times to camp.

a few thoughts …

– Last Updated: Jun-04-12 6:20 PM EST –

(1) What kind of commercial boat traffic is present on these sections of the river? I've only seen sections of the Ohio and there were large barges where there may be a significant risk because the tugs driving the barges can't see you and can't maneuver. Not knowing what the river is like near this big stretch I think interacting with river traffic Could be the highest risk so you would need some experience in knowing where to safely approach large boats on the river and this is difficult because you don't have a pilots knowledge of shoals and hazards.

(2) you can learn to roll a Prijon Kodiak in 45 minutes. Get Eric Jacksons video, rolling and bracing ... go to a shallow lake or pond or swimming hole and teach yourself. Rolling is not hard, and a loaded Kodiak rolls over like a dead whale ... you just need to get it started. Learn to do a self rescue with paddle float. Learn to do a cowboy.

(3) do several shorter trips on the river with experienced paddlers. Do some weekend trips where you paddle for 3 days --- do some self rescues in currents with help nearby. Check into how hard it is going to be to get in and out of the water. Industrialized areas can present some severe hazards. Get information on how the river changes with storms and runnoff.

What Seadart Said

– Last Updated: Jun-04-12 7:19 PM EST –

I can only add: That water will be pretty cold that time of year. Dress for a swim.

And I'll add this: I think the safest way to paddle is to keep in mind "What would I do if my ass got knocked over right here; right now?"

probably not need a roll
I also don’t know that stretch of river and lake, so can’t comment about that. But in general, most sea kayakers don’t need a roll. If you are surfing, playing in rock gardens, or doing other things where getting back upright quick is important, then you do. But most flat water paddling does not.

That said, you definitely need to know how to self rescue in the conditions you are likely to see. And to wear the clothing appropriate for the temperatures you will see so that you have the time to self rescue.

You’ll obviously need to make the boat move so you can complete the trip.

And you’ll need to think through possible risks and make sure you understand how to mitigate the risks (ship traffic being one risk that was mentioned before).

First, the lack of skill to decide on
more interesting ways to spend the time and effort. The Ohio is OK, I guess, but the KY lakes are just the wreckage of some good rivers.

seems fun
I would estimate you could survive. There should be services no more than a few days apart and boat traffic in a real emergency. I know Kentucky lake has plenty of marinas and such, but the Ohio maybe a bit trickier. But with current long mileage days are possible. Your biggest hazard is most likely going to be barges and wing dykes. A roll would probably not be necessary, but if you are willing to learn, it couldn’t hurt. I would recommend a bunch of seat time between now and then. Hopefully including time on a river like the Ohio. There are guidebooks that simplify the charts for these body of water. They also will help with planning stops and resupply.

Ryan L.

Forward paddling
It’s what you’ll be doing the most of after all. It’s not hard to make a kayak move forward, but good technique will make a world of difference to the distance you can cover daily, your energy expenditure and impact on your body. Get some decent coaching if you can and then get out there and practice.

Well charged cell phone and
VHF radio.

Unfortunately, if you have to ask, you’re not ready. No offense.

The only bad thing that can happen is a capsize or a snake bite. Forget the snake bite. Practice reentering your loaded boat.

Have a good time.

Wet exit/swim to shore?

– Last Updated: Jun-05-12 11:51 AM EST –

While I may agree that there are alternatives to a roll for someone who is basically healthy, this is bad as your only response to a capsize. I'd start there. There are several self-rescue techniques other than a roll that you should be very familiar with to start a solo paddle of length and it appears that you haven't spent time in any of them. Sample listing - traditional paddle-float self-rescue, heel hook paddle float self-rescue, cowboy, wet re-entry and roll (w/paddle float on the blade) off the top of my head.

You should also try to learn a roll - even if you don't get it you'll learn to focus on solving the problem in the water rather than just giving up and swimming the boat in. If all you have done is wet exit you may be cutting short your time doing that. And the wet re-entry and roll option even with a paddle float works best the first time if you have started learning the basic motions of a roll. Wayne Horodwich has a pretty good video of this out there. Sea Kayaker magazine has one up of the heel hook paddle float and the cowboy re-entries, the first is pretty new.

There are two components to these non-rolling self-rescue techniques for which you are likely under-prepared. One is the technique itself - even the seemingly simplest things require some practice.

But the other is balancing over the boat well enough to not re-capsize once you are at the point of plopping your butt into the cockpit. This can be a lot tougher to get than people realize, and frankly it is often harder for guys because of size. You can learn it without having to tire yourself out by actually completing a lot of self-rescues. Take the boat to a relatively shallow place where you can easily wade to shore, jump on top of the boat and start crawling around it. Front to back, turn around at each end, touch the bow and touch the stern, get into and out of the cockpit, turn around in the cockpit, whatever else strikes your fancy. Practice using the paddle (as is, no float) as an outrigger but try to learn the balance mostly in your body.

The self-rescues get pretty easy to grab, especially ones like the cowboy, once you have your balance settled. You will also find out what you have to take off your deck, if you tend to rely on deck clutter like a deck bag, to make a self-rescue possible. You'll find spare paddle wants to be on the foredeck for this stuff to work.

You do have perimeter line (Oops - I said deck rigging and I meant perimeter line), yes? You can do a traditional paddle float self-rescue without it if your hands are big enough (mine aren't), but if you lack this stuff I'd focus hard on the cowboy.

good stuff
By far the worse stuff in kayaking happens when you aren’t in the boat. Learning and being comfortable getting back in will keep you safe. Then the paddling part will be the hard part.

Ryan L.

Not ready…
at this time is a correct assessment. The only thing that I do know at this time is that I don’t know what I don’t know. Celia’s mention of skill set in another thread prompted me to ask my question. I am finding out there is more to kayaking than meets the eye.

BTW no offense was taken.

Thank you
for your comments. I had to chuckle when you mentioned re-capsizing the kayak when trying to get back in it because thats exactly what happened the first time out; were you there watching :slight_smile:

I have not spent any time trying to re-enter the kayak yet. Still in the process of learning what the various methods are and need to get a paddle float in the near future.

I like your suggestion about working on balance on top of the kayak. I’m sure it will provide the local beach goers with plenty of laughs :slight_smile:

I lived several
years on Kentucky lake and have family still in the area near Kenlake State Park. Once I make it to Paducah I might as well go the remaining 50 miles or so to see them and arrange a ride home. Plus there is good camping along the shores. Along the Ohio river I will be stopping to see a couple of my daughters and grandchildren and 2 great grandsons.

Those beach-goers get really excited
I was practicing rolls and because I was doing oddball stuff and trying rolls that I could not manage, I had some people in a rubber raft come paddling over to rescue me.

Now, I don’t roll back over after each successful roll and I look around to make sure everyone knows I’m OK if I take a few tries to get up while doing something difficult like an angel roll.

From the comments you made about SCUBA, first aid, etc., earlier, I get the impression that you are a smart person. With that, you are already way more prepared than most people. The rest of the advice on dealing with a capsize sounds good to me since that is probably your weakest point of knowledge and experience.


Celia has it
Reread Celia’s post and make sure you have those solid re-entry skills before taking any long trip. In addition, you can add the following items:

  1. Learn a reliable roll. It doesn’t have to look perfect, but it has to work when you need it. You may not have a river that is more than a mile wide (I don’t know the region at all), but we have one where I live and if all you have is a “swim to shore” strategy, you are leaving yourself open to a lot of risk. Wind may well make it impossible for you to progress as a swimmer if you are hauling a kayak and this is a dubious proposition in the best conditions (and trust me, I’m likely a better swimmer than you unless you hold a couple of college records and have played 15+ years of water polo and I’ve hauled someone and their boat off the water before - it just isn’t easy, especially in wind).

  2. Make yourself visible. All popular waterways have powerboats and most boaters are not looking for recreational kayaks on the water (and sometimes cannot see them due to boat size, bridge placement, etc).

  3. Learn a solid re-entry method, best being re-entry and roll because rolls do fail (or other self rescue technique including paddle float). Perhaps your roll may not fail often, but conditions are unpredictable.

  4. Gear - bring more than you need. You can find an itemized list online and there are some that seem awfully redundant or questionable (hand-held flares fall in this category), but it is better to have the gear on hand and not need it than the other way around. I actually saw an accident report where a paddler was able to start a signal fire with one of these flares when stuck on an island (the fire was much longer lasting than any flare would be). Dry bags - lots of them and take some small extras for packing inside other dry bags for protection of electronics you may bring (cell phone, radio, etc.)

  5. Communication : File a float plan with someone who knows your approximate distance covered each day and who is your first contact for any medical emergency (for yourself or for any who respond to a potential incident).

    Since you don’t have any backup on the water, you will have a smaller margin of safety than a group would have, and it is prudent to offset that risk with extra preparation.

    Before you start the trip, drive the route as much as possible and note landmarks, water conditions, boat traffic, potential exit points, campsites, etc. It doesn’t hurt to notify any maritime services along the route (sheriff, coast guard, etc.) and notify them that you will be passing through and an approximate time when you may be in the area. When forewarned, these folks can be very beneficial allies rather than the arrogant gerbils they may well be if you simply happen upon them.

    I’m sure there are more detailed guides available online than this wall of text off the top of my head, so do some research and have fun.

    Oh, and rope, tape, and something to cut it with. Sam Gamgee has it right. The stuff is really useful.


"Voyaging is Victory."
I’m not quite sure which ancient mariner penned those words, but I would guess that they probably had never crossed the Irish Sea in a force nine gale.

I admire your spirit, for you, like me, are apparently old enough to know better.

I have never been on Kentucky or Barkley Lake abord anything smaller than a houseboat, but I have endured some monster winds. Some lasted for days, and actually increased at night.

Have you thought about contacting some of the barge companies? You might be able to make arrangements to “hitch a ride” if necessary.

There is no shame in not being miserable.

Safe journey

Be quick with bracing
In addition to the advice about re-entering, rolling, etc. make sure you have a quick (instinctive) brace. That will help prevent capsizing in the first place.

Also, know how to use said brace if strong wind waves broach you and skid-bounce you sideways (wham, wham, wham) instead of pointing toward shore. Even if you end up capsizing right at shore, at least you’ll be closer to land then–a shorter swim.

Best to take one or a few short shakedown trips before tackling a longer one. Even an overnighter will teach you lots about what to expect. Being solo, there are some aspects of camping that you probably haven’t thought of during your day paddles. Things such as hauling a loaded boat to shore with short-interval wind waves dumping water in your cockpit, even after you’ve jumped out. You can only control one end of the boat if there’s only one of you there!

Something that’s not a skills thing but still important: redundancy. For example, if you are relying on filtering water, carry some water purification tablets OR extra fuel for boiling, in case the filter craps out.

Barge company
I do know a river boat captain and the company he works for is located at the location I will put in at on the Ohio river. I plan to talk with them about river conditions and current/flow rate. Unfortunately insurance regulations don’t allow them to have passengers:( I would really like to travel on one of those. When I first thought of this trip and mentioned to the captain a few years ago he asked me if I knew how long a trip it was. I had a vague idea but was way off. The river miles can add up quickly due to the bends and turns.