Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Recreational Kayak Safety Demo at SCSCS (not-so-random pix, hooray!)

And here are some not-so-random photos! Got home early enough that I do have time to put these up - this was a series I took during a very entertaining demonstration of recreational kayak safety at last weekend's Southern Connecticut Small Craft Symposium. This was actually pretty interesting for me to see, I actually don't know much about these funny little boats, except that they can be a lot of fun in the right places - have I ever told my full-moon paddle through a hard-working beaver colony on the Manistee River in Michigan? That was in a recreation kayak like one of these, and it was the perfect no-fuss boat for that paddle. 

Mark from the CT-DEP Boating Division gets ready to make trouble. Phil from ConnYak gets worried. I mentioned on Facebook that both Mark and TQ tried to drown me during 2 separate demos - well, at least Mark tried to drown himself first. Guess what inexpensive but potentially lifesaving piece of safety gear Mark has deliberately left out of his kayak today?

Let the troubles begin. Hmm

 Excuse me, but are you in need of assistance?

No, no, I'm fine, um, got it all under control, yes indeedy...

  See, it's floating back up now - yeah - see, I can get back in now...
Ah, there, I'm back in, I can paddle home like this just fine, yes, yes, just...
 ok maybe I could use a bit of a hand. Since you're here and all. But I would have been fine if you weren't, yeah, honest I would. 

It took a little work (even a small kayak holds a few hundred pounds of water, and this one was FULL) but in the end Phil completed the full t-x manuever and Mark lived to tell the tale. Actually this was interesting - rec boats still require the full "x" part of the "t-x" rescue, where you slide the boat all the way across your deck, doing a little teeter-totter thing to empty both ends of the bulkheadless boat. When I was first learning to paddle (back at the turn of the century! :D) I was taught to do sea kayak rescues this way because back then a lot more sea kayaks didn't have bulkheads - they just used the safety equipment Mark "forgot" for this demo, namely floatbags. These days, most sea kayak do have bulkheads, and the bread-and-butter recovery is a T-rescue  (pick up the bow of the inverted boat, let the water run out of the cockpit, flip it back to rightside up and it's ready for your friend to get back in). Mark's biggest safety point for recreational kayaks was that people buy them because they're looking for an easy & inexpensive toy, and all too often don't want to shell out what they perceive as being "extra money" for float bags and lifejackets. Mark set this situation up - but it doesn't take a capsize to swamp a rec boat, conditions kicking up to where the waves are dumping water into the cockpit could end up the same way. And the lifejacket is not up for debate - these guys fall under CG regs same as any  other canoe or kayak, and although you may have the option of just carrying the lifejacket, it'll do you more good in an unexpected incident if you're wearing it. 

Phil was playing the wise paddler - he had float bags in his boat -
and would you look at that - 
with those in, his boat had enough positive flotation that he was actually able to roll (impressive!) and, even without a sprayskirt, come up ready to just paddle on!

Note next day: And I left it at that because that was all the pictures I took before I ended up getting back in the pool, had brought the Lumix, not the Optio waterproof. However, Phil and I had a little bit of an email chat today and now I think like I'm leaving out a couple more pretty crucial safety points if I don't add a little more. On the off chance anyone EVER stumbles across this looking for safety advice for recreational kayaks, I'm going to write a little bit more. The demo did go on for a good bit after this - rolling this boat was pretty much a fun thing for an experienced paddler to try in a pool, this is NOT going to be a practical, real-world recovery option. Rec boats aren't designed to roll and mostly, when they go over, they stay over.

Once he'd pulled off a roll, he went back over and fell out, which is what would really happened. Getting back in was tricky; he couldn't just climb back in; using a sling he pulled it off, but it didn't look easy. I'm really curious myself now - I think that the next time I find myself in a rec boat on a hot summer day in Michigan (the place where I most frequently end up in rec boats), I might just have to try it myself. 

Anyone who paddles a recreational kayak should try it too. They're stable, but there's no such thing as an unflippable kayak. You might not plan to flip, and you probably won't - but if you do, make sure you know that you can get back in!

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