Monday, November 15, 2010

Chapter 18: Rosario Strait Rescue

This chapter involves a rescue of three paddlers out of a group of five. While, luckily, this group had an experienced guide who was carrying a VHF radio, this whole incident could have been avoided had the group stayed out of wind and the tide rip that eventually caused two of the paddlers in a tandem to capsize. The guide did not capsize, but intentionally exited his kayak to swim over and assist the two paddlers in the tandem whom he feared were having trouble exiting the upturned kayak.

If you are unfamiliar with tide rips, watch the YouTube video above showing swimmers in a tide rip in Deception Pass which is not too far from Rosario Strait where the story in Chapter 18 takes place.

Strong winds also played a factor in causing this capsize. For a review of the importance of "paddling in the lee", you can re-read the side-bar article in Chapter 17, and my previous blog post, "More Thoughts on the Ferry Rescue in Chapter 17".

Here in the Great Lakes, we are happy not to have to worry about the dangers of these strong currents caused by tidal movements of the water. However, we are quite familiar with the dangers of strong winds. If you have plans to paddle in the ocean though, especially in areas like the San Juan Islands that have strong tidal currents that develop among the islands, it is really important that you understand how these tide rips develop, where they develop, and learn to avoid them if you don't have the skills to paddle through them.

Whitewater paddling skills as well as rough water handling skills are very useful when kayaking in a tide rip. While this story is about a capsize and near tragedy, tidal currents can be used to your advantage when you understand them, and skilled paddlers often seek out tide rips for play opportunities. A tide rip is an area in which a tidal current is typically deflected by land masses and accelerated causing an area of rapid, confused currents and rougher water.

Have you had an experience paddling in a tide rip? Was it for fun, or did you find yourself struggling in unexpectedly rough water? How did things turn out?