Sea kayak safety: the parallel rescue

Plenty of sea kayakers know the bow rescue – a technique where the rescuer presents the bow of their kayak to a capsizee, so the unfortunately inverted paddler can hip flick back up using the bow for support. There are many Youtube videos showing it, and it’s taught in Paddle Canada and other sea kayaking courses.

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A SEA KAYAK RESCUE (BY, NOT OF)

a chart of Benson Island in the Broken Group Islands, British Columbia, with a kayak route shown in red
the route of our rescue

In Canada, the government-required equipment for sea kayaks includes “a buoyant heaving line at least 15 meters long”. In other words, a rescue throwline. I’ve always suspected this requirement was drafted by some well-meaning but ill-informed civil servant who didn’t understand the differences between river and ocean kayaking. Because when I did whitewater paddling, I used my throwline more than once to fish out a buddy who’d had to abandon boat and was being recirculated in a feature that was loathe to spit him out. But I did that from the security of a riverbank. In sea kayaking, if your companion is in the soup, you likely are also. There’s rarely land or a patch of calm water from which to pitch a line. If you’re going to tow someone, it’s usually easier to paddle over and clip in your towline.* In more than three decades of sea kayaking, I’ve used my towline/throwline as a rescue throwline exactly once. And it wasn’t to save a kayaker.

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Electric Pumps For Sea Kayaks: The Why And The How

The Why

There are valid reasons to always carry a hand pump when sea kayaking. In my home Canadian waters, a bailer of some sort is a legal requirement. If you’re assisting another paddler, a hand pump lets you empty the rescuee’s cockpit while leaving their sprayskirt fastened to keep out waves. It’s smart to have a manual back-up to electric devices. And I have successfully self-rescued using only a hand pump in moderate conditions. But when the surf really hits the fan, I don’t count on a hand pump alone to save my soggy ass.

My first generation electric kayak pump. The grey metal nozzle on the left side of the battery case is a pneumatic switch, activated through a hose by an air button.

My first generation electric kayak pump. The grey metal nozzle on the left side of the battery box is a pneumatic switch, activated by an air button at the far end of plastic tubing.

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