Self-rescue while tripping

JKA

Paddler
Joined
Jul 25, 2016
Messages
207
Location
Banks Peninsula, New Zealand
Okay, so as this thread has been derailed into rescue stories, here's a couple from me:

The first is from an unsuccessful attempt in 2006 to do a solo paddle around Stewart Island, the southern-most island in New Zealand. Well down in the Roaring Forties, with a fetch from Antarctica, it's an interesting place.

After being stuck in an isolated bay for a few days I hired a helicopter to get out, which was a sensible call given that the gales continued for another 21 days after I left. This report is after a landing on day three.

---------------------------

... Breaking back out through the surf, I began to wonder if I might get to spend more time at Little Hellfire beach.


One set broke just in front, and I did the most beautiful back-loop I have yet managed. Watching the bow come right over, I got a glimpse of land before touch down. Using the wave’s energy, I quickly rolled back up and headed out for another try.


Picking my time carefully, I accelerated into a wave, trying to punch through before it broke. My loaded boat was too slow, and I was picked up and surfed backwards. Leaning as far forward as I could, I tucked into a bow rudder stroke (or is it a stern rudder at the bow, I’m not sure?) trying to stop the stern from burying and looping me again. The stern buried and flicked me over the high side and sent me surfing backwards and upside down towards the beach. This wave didn’t want to let go, and tried to steal my paddle but I had no intention of giving it up, so we wrestled for a while. Eventually it grew bored with monstering me, so I rolled up and tried to work out a better way.


Brute force had failed so I had to get sneaky. When I saw a gap, I took it, igniting the afterburners until well clear of the breakers. All my surfing practice in sea boats paid off.


Later, a check of my GPS log showed my maximum speed was 32.1 kilometres per hour! Backwards and upside down! No wonder my sinus passages were clear...

--------------------


The next report was about ten years later, a short play in strong winds in my home waters. It demonstrates the reality of skills erosion.

---------------------


...After 2.4 kilometres, which took 26 minutes, I turned around to surf downwind. As is also a normal practice, I did a quick roll when broadside to the waves as I turned, just for the fun.

The return run was disappointing, with the waves too low to get much of a surfing run. As I got close to home I headed to an area where the waves steepen, as the wind pushes over the incoming tide. After a bit of a play there I did another roll, again using the wind and waves to push me over and help to come up.

As I paddled into the waves I did another roll, this time facing directly into the wind. My rolls are completed without thought, as I’m happy that I’ve reached a level of unconscious competence. This time I came up into the wind, and the waves pushed me back under. I automatically swapped sides and set up for another screw roll but this also failed. At this point I started to take note of what was happening, and decided to do a reverse screw roll, as I was leaning back from my failed attempt. This also failed, and I was aware that I had lifted my head so I tried again, with a screw roll from the front. This also didn’t work and so I made a decision to bail.

As I grasped the release tape for my spray deck I paused, and consciously thought, “Is this the right thing to do? Yep, I’ll catch my breath and re-entry roll.” That was a very clear decision, made because I was out of breath.

I surfaced with the kayak on my right, holding the cockpit rim in one hand and my paddle in the other. I quickly orientated my paddle for a re-entry roll, my preferred and practised recovery procedure if a roll fails.

I quickly slipped into the cockpit, locked my knees into the braces, and rolled up.

Except I didn’t, my roll failed again.

On wet exiting, I kept the Nordkapp upside down, locked my legs into the cockpit and removed the paddle float from its storage bag on the rear deck. Fitting it to the left paddle blade I made sure to attach it properly and inflate both chambers fully. My preference is to do a paddle float re-entry roll rather than use it as an outrigger, as I’m faster and have fewer complications. As usual when rolling with a float attached, I extended the paddle, doing a very slow roll as the blade doesn’t move through the water.

As I surfaced I was hit by another wave and braced on the float, which was on the down wind side, as the Nordkapp had turned while I was setting up. This roll was also ugly, but, aided by the float, successful. My cockpit was half full of water, but as I had moved the front bulkhead to suit my short legs, and it has a pod-style seat, there isn’t much flooded volume. I am well practiced paddling with a cockpit full of water so stability wasn’t a problem.

Once ashore I packed up quickly, very keen to check the data from my Suunto watch.

When I capsized I had been paddling for 1 hour 8 minutes, and had covered 6.7 kilometres. My heart rate was 150 beats per minute, which for me is quite high, indicating my level of exertion. My resting HR is about 50 bpm.

The time from when I first capsized to when I was back in the cockpit having done four failed rolls, a failed re-entry roll, and a successful paddle-float re-entry roll was 2 minutes 48 seconds, and my heart rate on completion was 160 beats per minute.

A nearby weather station showed wind speeds at the time I capsized as 28 knots with gusts to 38. They were not that strong where I was.

I honestly can’t remember when I had last swum a kayak, and my wife said I must have been pissed off that my rolls had failed, but I was actually elated that this had happened!

I looked on it as an audit of my current competency, and it showed that I had become complacent and my skills had eroded...
 

mick_allen

Paddler & Moderator
Joined
May 15, 2005
Messages
3,413
I think the thread is enhanced with the additional personal non trip events and thoughts, so don't hold back.

I have a few non-trip specifics maybe to me alone, but trying to distill, on trips or situations far from assistance, I think the foremost before knowledge, skill, technique, or gear . . . . is humility.
I know for sure - on trips or similar - that I have avoided some percentage of situations - by taking an easy way out - when the alternative could have caused much much grief if something went awry. And the journey experiences did not suffer much, if any, because of those reconsiderations.

But now that the subject of canoe safety has been raised: what are the more easy ways of re-entering a capsized canoe while tripping? Let's say solo. Or what would/could/should one do?

- I presume firstly that [most] everything has just got to be tied down.
- Utilization of some offside floatation [like a paddlefloat?]
 

AM

Paddler
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
996
Location
Vancouver
But now that the subject of canoe safety has been raised: what are the more easy ways of re-entering a capsized canoe while tripping? Let's say solo. Or what would/could/should one do?

- I presume firstly that [most] everything has just got to be tied down.
- Utilization of some offside floatation [like a paddlefloat?]
The basic self-rescue is sort of like a kayak scramble. The difficulty is that the gunwale of a canoe is much higher than the deck of a kayak, so the manoeuvre requires a more dynamic lunge. See 3:40 mark of this video:


A loaded canoe would actually be easier in this situation. The idea of using a paddle float is one I have considered, though the lever arm of a canoe paddle is pretty short.

I spent years practicing kayak rescues and rolls to the point where I had a pretty good sense of what my real-world limits were: lots of surfing and rough water lessons in humility. I’m sure some of that learning will translate to a new medium (canoe), though I’m sure there will be new lessons in humility as well.

Cheers,
Andrew
 

cougarmeat

Paddler
Joined
Sep 17, 2012
Messages
941
Location
Bend OR USA
Just because it was said, "... can't roll the canoe.", that is not exactly true. During one of my pool sessions, a fellow showed up with his canoe that had float bags at the bow and stern. He was successful in rolling up about every third attempt. The boat was unloaded except for paddler and float bags.

Once, and only once, I was able - in a warm swimming pool - to hold my breath, duck under my upside-down empty kayak, enter and attach the spray skirt, and roll up in a nearly dry boat. I'd venture to say there is more psychology than physiology at play. When the pool was shared with some WW people, one would eye my Mariner XL with a bit of envy. Now this person was rolling their WW boat easily each time. So I ask if they wanted to try my boat. The person couldn't hit a successful roll. Though the mechanics were the same. their mind was hijacked by "bigger boat" worries.

On another occasion, I was in a re-enter and roll exercise in a pool. I mostly practiced with my Little Dipper paddle because it's long and narrow. I didn't want to condition myself to think I needed a wide blade. After all, it's the hip snap and keeping the head down - right. I was having trouble getting into my boat and setting up without turning completely upside down and asked a volunteer instructor for suggestions. He tried to roll the Mariner - with my paddle - and failed. I'm pretty sure he was psyched out by the long narrow blade instead of his wide blade.

The best "aid" I have is remembering Joanne. Joanne was a student in my waterboarding class and though we were being taught the Twist roll - finishing forward, she was there to practice her lean-back style roll. She did it so slow and smooth. No panic, no hurry. So I try to "channel" Joanne. Take a breath, move slow and easy. Head down, hip snap, and up. When it's right, it's just like a perfect golf swing or baseball hit. No effort at all.

But there was a time in a Deception Pass class where nothing worked. Later, an instructor said I probably would have made it up had I tried rolling on the other side. I was unaware that I was rolling against the current. Unaware that it even made a difference. I use a non-feathered two-piece paddle and the current/force was so strong that during the maneuver, the paddle, though tightly friction held, had rotated a blade to about 45 degrees.

Note that there isn't much current in a swimming pool; all those hours hadn't exposed me to what could be real conditions.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: AM

AM

Paddler
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
996
Location
Vancouver
During one of my pool sessions, a fellow showed up with his canoe that had float bags at the bow and stern. He was successful in rolling up about every third attempt. The boat was unloaded except for paddler and float bags.
That guy likely had a WW canoe with pedestal and thigh straps. Even then he hit 33% of his rolls in the pool, which likely translates into <5% in a river. A canoe roll is more difficult than a kayak roll, not only because the boat is deeper and body contact is less secure, but also because it involves two sweeps: first back then, once the paddler has turned his chest to the water, forward. It’s a complicated move.

Will I try it? Of course — I’m a glutton for punishment. After a blown roll while surfing in my kayak in 2009, I worked to get mine to as close to 100% as possible, which took many hours of practice. It paid off — I never blew a roll after that, whether in surf or current. BUT…I don’t think that same payoff will happen with a canoe. The boat is less suitable and this paddler is getting older.

Check out the 11:30 mark of this video where Ken Whiting goes WW canoeing. At that mark, the instructor goes to demonstrate the roll…and blows it. Again, this is a difficult move:


Cheers,
Andrew
 
  • Like
Reactions: CPS

nootka

Paddler
Joined
May 26, 2007
Messages
1,713
Location
Campbell River
^ These guys are showing what in a kayak would be bad technique. I don't know how much more difficult the canoe is, but I'd want to see someone who (a) sculls to the surface (b) keeps the paddle extended for as much leverage as possible (c) rotates the canoe as much as possible before lifting their head out of the water. Both of them have their shoulders perpendicular to the plane of the water, and we know that is a problem. If you look at
you see they start with a layback, then turn it into a chest down roll
which makes a lot of sense.
 

Doug_Lloyd

Paddler
Joined
Feb 29, 2008
Messages
557
Andrew,
I am a bit late to the party here but I have self rescued in a loaded touring kayak (a 1980 Nordkapp HS with ocean cockpit and deep draft rudder like the Aleut double). It’s possible to use most self-rescue devices with good practice - in rough conditions. While I carried a multitude of rescue gear, really it came down to total deployment time (with reasonable assurance of success if proficient) versus the efficacy and instantaneous back-in-boat harm reduction of an equally proficient re-enter and roll. Now if you blow your re-entry you will possibly be worse of in cold water, etc. So, over time I just got really adept at solo re-entry by sideways or upside down inversion, though the need lessened severely as I learned to scull in my sleep as it were, leaving any knock-down difficulties a mute point. Amongst my most egregious issues with any non-assisted (no buddy system) rescue after exiting the boat was separation from said boat, deployment of gear with cold hands and severe cramping - to name a few. I employed a personal tether line eventually a la Chris Duff. There are ways to mitigate the other difficulties. Many times I just wished I had stayed on the beach.

I would be a bit more concerned about a canoe. The fellow who showed up at one of the WCP camp outs had a similar boat to the one you got I believe. He didn’t seem the type to be looking for textured waters. I did encounter a solo paddler off Books in some way gnarly conditions once. The fellow had a scaled-down version of a Clipper Haida war canoe. I was absolutely flabbergasted at how adroitly he handled those waters as well as the seaworthiness of the nylon-decked canoe. I wanted to ask him question once in the Lee of South Brooks but my paddling buddy, Doug Alderson, indicated he looked like he was on a sojourn and to leave him be in peace. I’ve tried canoeing for my spinal stenosis, neurogenic claudation and severe vestibular incidents, and while I loved the stability of the platform, the torquing of the torso for at least the canoe paddling exasperated my situation. Hope it all worked out for you. Paddling is so transcendent. Yes, there is a heaven. It’s called BC!
 
Top