Where around here is good to practice self rescue?

I live in Lynn, Massachusetts. I have a new kayak on the way. It’s “pool toy” quality but that’s fine enough for me. I have previously paddled rental kayaks only.

I would like to practice self-rescue in the area. Although she will be always wearing a life jacket, I am not confident on my wife’s swimming skills. Should she capsize, I would be responsible for helping her get back in the kayak or righting it while she swims to shore. I don’t feel that I need to sign up for a class; I have seen REI videos and it’s a matter of practicing it.

Where is a good place to practice rescue around here? There are plenty of places to kayak, but most ponds (such as the nearest to me, Flax Pond) don’t allow swimmers. Some ponds don’t allow boaters. Many ponds are thick with weeds and rumored to be deadly to swim in, which I don’t quite understand. Some areas, especially rivers, have too many boaters who would be in the way or have currents due to the tide. The ocean is cold around here – around 65 degrees perhaps – but that is a latch-ditch possibility. I am trying to avoid having to practice in a cold harbor. I do not own a wet suit.

I guess I might have to go all the way out to the Mystic Lakes in Medford. Is there anything closer?

You say pool toy kayak. Most of those types of kayaks will sink to just below the water. If no sealed hatches ad some flotation of some sort. like beach balls in front and back of kayak. Also most likely your kayak wont have any deck rigging. You will want to ad some of that too. Good luck.

Why would you not practice in the areas you will be paddling?

I could add some air flotation to help it float. If there are bungee cords on the kayak, what is the point of deck rigging – to help flip it over? I certainly do not like the idea of a kayak that will sink or fill with water completely if capsized.

Someone needs to convince me what is the point of spending $500+ for a kayak. Are these simply easier to right when capsized? I will be using it on calm rivers and ponds only and I haven’t owned one before. I won’t be camping or packing a lot of gear. Plastic is fine. Maybe I am missing something here. I am obviously an amateur but I would like some practice survival skills concerning capsizing.

I’d rather practice in an area where I would not get in the way of other boaters and, since I’d be doing a good deal of swimming, where there aren’t many weeds and where there is a good deal of space. Most areas along the small rivers around here don’t really have a lot of room to practice and a boater could come by. There are many ponds where boating is allowed but swimming usually is not, so I could not practice on those. I think I have a place picked out though finally. I doubt anyone reading this would be local unfortunately.

Lynn Shores Reservation looks inviting. Plenty of parking by the ballfields, big beaches protected from swell. Don’t go into the mooring field. That’s at least by google maps view anyway.

See you at the Blackburn Challenge in a couple of weeks? :wink:


shows a good example of Cleopatra’S needle, although in the video the guy is experienced and stays in the boat. a novice will fall out, the boat floods similarly to the video, and stands up on end which makes it unrecoverable. you have to (painstakingly) pull it to shore.

Typically, you spend more $ to get a ‘better’ boat. there are many many threads on here about rec boats and how, although they seem stable on flat water, that exact hull design makes them inherrently unstable in waves (i.e. the conditions that are most likely to make you flip).

Also, sea kayaks have 2+ water tight bulk heads which provide flotation and prevent Cleopatra’s needle condition during a capsize.

Deck lines are overrated by sea kayakers. dont worry about those.

Basically the advice here will be “Dont paddle further from shore than you can swim a swamped kayak back from” also take into account wind and current (if on a river or tidal body of water).

Without flotation bags in both the bow and stern, your practice will consist of

  1. boat flips
  2. you exit boat, boat fills with water
  3. you pull boat back to shore and empty water

Having float bags will allow you to theoretically get back in the boat (either unassisted or with a paddle float) and bail out the water with a pump or bucket. (I say theoretically because it takes strength, coordination, and balance to re-enter a boat, even with flotation)

MOST OF ALL, follow your gut and capsize on your terms in calm water to experience this all first hand. You will learn a lot.

All that said, there are millions of rec kayaks used by woefully uninformed people every day and it turns out fine for the vast majority of them, but when things go wrong there are plenty of obituaries posted on here that show the consequences of unpreparedness when Stuff hits the fan.



A kayak without flotation fore and aft will not float horizontally. The end without flotation will sink. It will have to be brought to shore or shallow water and emptied.

Bungee cord stretches. A deck (perimeter) line is static and will not stretch. When using a line to help climb back on anything, you’ll get where you’re going faster using a static line versus a line that keeps on stretching .

As you gave no info on the make and model of the kayak you’ve purchased, it’s possible it will have a couple of perimeter lines. Whatever, it sounds like you’ll be using your kayak where rec boats are intended to be used: calm ponds and rivers. Just be sure you never leave shore without wearing your PFD and have a good time.

@Marshall said:
Lynn Shores Reservation looks inviting. Plenty of parking by the ballfields, big beaches protected from swell. Don’t go into the mooring field. That’s at least by google maps view anyway.

Around here we call it “Lynn Woods.” Yes, that is a nice area you are looking at on Google. Unforunately, here in Lynn all the ponds in the Lynn woods are reservoirs used for my drinking water and boaters and swimmers aren’t allowed. I wish I could.

Check with any colleges or universities near you to see if they have a pool and might give roll and or self rescue lessons.
My wife and I took a roll class at UNCC in Charlotte and at the end of the week we both had it down.
Neither of us have a desire to roll, but we do practice self rescue every so often.

With that said; I think if the wind waves and weather was bad enough to cause a capsize, a self rescue would be very difficult.
If you can’t find a place to practice self rescue, just adhere to the weather forcast, and don’t go out on bad days.
I personally wouldn’t be far off shore in a kayak that doesn’t have floatation

The trouble with watching videos is you get no feedback when you think you are doing it right and it’s not working. Invariably there is some detail you forgot
Go to Charles River with your wife and take a lesson. It’s an investment that has great rewards. I started rec kayaking in 1989 and did take lessons and the next year was in a new boat thinking of the Blackburn.
Teaching your spouse hardly ever works well

It seems what I want for a practice area is basically a “natural pool” without a bunch of clogging weeds. There are a few areas near me where there is a river dam that are suitable. I found one called “Ipswich River Reservoir” (Google it) that looks good and has just about no boat traffic and some parking nearby. Charles River Lagoon, which kayamedic mentioned, looks good too. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that, although getting to and especially parking in downtown Boston is something of a pain and I rarely go to Boston anymore. (Anyone from Greater Boston would understand this.)

Yes, lessons are ideal and I might do lessons eventually. I’m not really trying to teach my wife anything. She’s the one I might have to help rescue, and should I capsize, I’d have to rescue myself. When practicing, I would be the one capsizing, not her. She might just be on the shore to watch me make a fool of myself and probably attempting to drag the kayak to shore when I’m unable to flip the kayak. Yes, I’d be wearing a life jacket. Perhaps all the time since these cheap kayaks aren’t the least bit seaworthy apparently.

Thank you for the warnings. It’s a shame the cheap kayaks are not really worthy to be called a boat and will likely half-sink. Even on calm waters or within your skill level, you never know when you could capsize. An unexpected current in a river; a wave from the wake of a jerk’s boat; or just doing something really stupid and tipping over. I’ll practice very near the shore. It might be stupid but I really want to try a wet exit, even if I have to somehow drag the kayak to shore.

Thank you for the warning about putting inflatables into a kayak. Maybe I should just go for a kayak that has a more streamlined hull more suitable for rolling and perhaps has a bulkhead? And just skip the cheap glorified pool toys?

If money isnt a concern, a “nicer” boat (read, probably used, short-ish and wide-ish sea kayak) will paddle much better overall. I think most people here would tell you, if you’re going to get into the sport with any regularity, a ‘real’ boat will pay dividens quickly.

If you buy used, you can almost always sell for the same price you bought it for, so try out a used sea kayak and see if you like it, or sell it if you dont. Something like 14-15’ and 24" wide with 2 bulkheads (fore and aft) would be some good general starting parameters. There is one for $950 on Connyak that sounds about right for you.

I am definitely on the Buy-Used bandwagon. My husband and I found pretty nice plastic sea kayaks fitting the above description for $350 each including paddles when we first started out. That might’ve been a particularly good deal, but if you have some patience and look on Craigslist you can find very decent boats for not much money, and then, as MCImes said, flip them if they end up not suiting you in future.

Don’t know your size but this might be a decent one to check out:

Or this:

Midtempo my neighbors have rec kayaksvand for what they do they are fine
We worked with them on rescues
And having an outsider do this helps in the relationship department
Folks here are just making you aware of rec kayak limitations
Perhaps next year the ocean and sleek craft will beckon
But it’s more about what’s in the brain than the boat
Too often folks think kayaking anywhere is a no brainer. It’s not
There are many lessons to be learned about the sea and the weather. Some you may not know exist
That’s why I advocate instruction to start with.

You need a class.

You can’t make a silk pocketbook out of a sow’s ear.

Midtempo, you have thrown out more than you realize here. I need to clear a little chaff to be able to respond.

It sounds like your paddling venues are places with power boats or very quiet ponds. In the first, is there a reason you just can’t paddle near shore and out of the way of the boats. If you do that and you can both swim, all you really need to rescue is the boat. Put in float bags to make it easier and pull the boats with you while you swim to shore.

The purpose of deck lines is to be static rope so you can hold onto the boat. Buggies stretch and may snap and are altogether not much use at moving a boat around on the water. But if you are just talking about swimming a boat a short distance to shore, the end toggles will work.

I don’t understand why you think it stupid to try a wet exit. Both you and your wife should. It is pretty fundamental to know whether you could panic. Just don’t do it in shallow water without a helmet. I wear a helmet for solo wet work, and it has found a rock or a buried tree trunk a couple of times.

It overall doesn’t sound like your current paddling needs exceed the capacity of a basic rec kayak as long as you some flotation in there and stay near shore in places with motor boats. Or do you have larger ambitions? In which case l suggest lessons for both of you before spending more money on boats.

My club does a rescue training for flatwater paddlers each year - simple assisted rescues, and there are very few boats (even rec boats without floatation) that we can’t get upright and empty, but the person in the water needs to help (you can’t see him in this picture, but he is behind the boat helping to get the boat up on the rescuer’s deck).


Once the boat is upright, we do find that many people don’t have the upper body strength to pull themselves back up into the boat.


Self rescues are an order of magnitude harder than assisted rescues. I recommend that you find a club or take a class where you and your wife can practice rescuing each other. Video’s and demonstrations only go so far - you need to get in the water and try it. (or stay close to shore :wink: )