Sunday, December 13, 2009

(Sea Kayaker: Deep Trouble) Chapter 1 Drifting With the Currents

 In this chapter we are exposed to a story of how tides and the dynamics they cause on the water can reap with kayakers.  The gist of this story is that that the kayakers involved in the incident encounter some unexpected conditions and end up in the water. Again, the idea here is to read along in the book so I am not going into the whole story on the blog.  One thing that fascinated me in this story is that the paddlers involved were complete aware of the tides and were actually making good us of them to their advantage.  Matt goes into great detail and analysis of this incident.
This chapter was exceptionally interesting to me as I have only paddled on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.  As such, tides are not an issue. Wind and weather are the main factors I tend to watch  when paddling and planning a trip.

While researching for this post I came across a very well done video by Bryant Burkhardt padding in the tides of San Francisco Bay.   Bryant has posted some great comments on this blog already and has a great blog of his own.

This chapter got me thinking about a few key questions and I would like to hear from as many people as possible on these. So please comment!

What are some resources you are aware of related to tides, water conditions, and weather?

How do you determine how to dress for paddling?

What stories do you have where something you overlooked caused a serious problem on the water?

Should you ever paddle without a PFD? Do you ever paddle sans a PFD?
Have you ever run into anyone paddling not wearing a PFD and said something to them.  How well did you know this person?  How did they react?

Look forward to hearing from you all!

Rick Isaacson

BTW: I will be posting a bit more often than weekly going forward for this title.

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  1. Hi All,

    I just got a copy of the book. Therefore I am a little behind the rest of you and will not comment on any first chapter discussions yet.

    I don't typically paddle in tidal areas with the exception of Darby creek where it flows through the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Accordingly, every year I go to the NOAA tide predictions website and download the the tidal information and then use that information to ensure that I am not paddling anywhere near low tides.

    PFDs, don't get me started. I work as a paramedic and have studied hypothermia fairly extensively. I will not paddle without wearing my PFD. In addition, I believe that Pennsylvania, last year, enacted legislation that mandates kayakers, canoers and other small boat operators to wear a PFD during the cold water season of November through March. I argued extensively with one instructor who did not feel this was necessary and who often does not wear a PFD. I understand that we each have to assess our own risk and potential for injury. But, not wearing a PFD and telling students that you don't wear a PFD is both foolhardy and a disservice to the paddling community's safety. Many people are under the impression that it's "safe" to get wet when the air temperature is in that 75-80 F range. They fail to recognize that the water temperature could easily be 15-20 degrees colder and that seemingly benign 75-80 F could set you up for hypothermia.



  2. Rick - thanks for the link and you are always welcome to use any video clips you want off my blog.

    I've always felt that there exist certain safety rules that we teach beginners because they lack the experiential basis for judgment: "Always wear a PFD", "Dress for immersion". The truth is that safety is much more complicated and with experience and training comes (ideally) good judgment that is more fluid. I don't dress for immersion if I'm going for a workout paddle on flat water - I would quickly overheat. Top surf kayakers don't wear PFD's because they would be a liability if swimming in big waves.

    Judgment is something that is developed like any other skill - through conscious effort and practice. Reading books like Deep Trouble is a good place to start and then practicing techniques and being realistic about your skills and the conditions you can handle.

    As far as giving advice to others on the water - that is always a tricky one. I normally try to have a pleasant conversation and assess their knowledge and skills. Any advice must be given as a friendly suggestion and not "I know best so listen to me". As a professional instructor I normally suggest people get professional instruction (not necessarily from me) since that is the best way to start off on the right foot.

    For more experienced folks the key is to assess situations with forethought but without ego. Experienced folks get complacent and either jump into a paddle without a proper review of conditions and forecasts or overestimate their ability to handle things. If most long time paddlers gave each paddle the same attention they did when they started a lot of problems would be avoided.

  3. I always paddle with a PDF. It makes me crazy that a local group's primary trip organizer has stopped wearing one.

    I thought the sidebar on Wide vs Narrow Kayaks was quite thought provoking - "one of your first priority should be developing effective braces." Being inland, bracing has been at the back of priorities. I've taken a bracing class but only practiced a litte. Watching video of rough conditions makes me appreciate the necessity of the skill. Practicing in flatwater seems a bit hokey compared to practicing in mild seas.