Monday, April 26, 2010

Chapter 7: Sea Caves, Arches, and Narrow Passages

After reading this chapter, the main theme that struck me was how "familiarity can breed laxity" when it comes to safety. On this particular trip, Joel chooses to go without a PFD and fails to use any flotation bags in the kayak, the assumption being that he won't be capsizing in these conditions.

I found this video showing what happens to kayaks without adequate flotation. These girls were in calm, shallow water, not far from shore. Imagine you are in ocean swells, deep and cold water, unable to re-enter your kayak. This video approximates the position that Joel's kayak would have been in after he exited the boat without any flotation bags or gear bags to provide buoyancy.

Have you ever had to rescue a kayak that lacked buoyancy? What was the situation and what was the outcome? Have you ever tried to make your kayak sink in order to determine the weaknesses in its system of flotation? As a kayaking instructor, I've seen bulkheads, hatches, and float bags all fail in one way or another. Luckily, most were in the calm, protected waters of an organized kayaking class.

One of the sidebar articles talks about a method of rescuing a submerged kayak. Having had to perform this rescue as part of past kayak training classes, I can tell you that it is very difficult even in calm conditions. I can't imagine having to try this in any sizable waves. You can see a more complete explanation of the Curl Rescue in "The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking" by Derek Hutchinson.

Eventually, Joel and his group had to abandon the sinking kayak and get to the other side of Wouwer Island to find a safe landing area. The solution that this group chose to use when faced with having 4 kayakers and only 3 single kayaks was to squeeze the two women into one of the boats that had a larger cockpit so that Joel could get in and paddle one of the kayaks.

What do you think you would do if you suddenly found yourself in a situation short one kayak out on the water far from shore? Have you ever tried paddling with another person laying on the back deck of your kayak or sitting in your cockpit?

The weather and water are beginning to get warmer here in Wisconsin. Perhaps it's time to go out and do some experimenting with these techniques in some protected water before finding ourselves offshore on Lake Michigan with a sinking kayak. What do you think?


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