Caught by building winds on the return, the were blown out into Green Bay. The woman did all the right things...kept the boats together and I believe they stayed out of the water in the boats, otherwise I don't see how they would have lasted almost 15 hours. They were extremely lucky.
Sea Kayaking is a great sport, but as we all know should not be taken lightly...here are a few of my thoughts.
Thoughts on staying safe while paddling
Summer is struggling to arrive. My boats have been begging to be used and I have been taking them out since early June despite this chilly weather.
Friends ask about kayaking and what kind of boat, gear, etc. to get if they want to paddle. They ask where I go…everywhere and anywhere is my answer.
Kayaking is so easy…anyone can get a boat, throw it in the water and paddle until their arms fall off. It is much simpler than launching a small power boat and dealing with backing the trailer and messing with the gas.
A Sea Kayak is amazingly sea worthy. A kayak with a well-designed hull and watertight compartments doesn’t care if it has a paddler or not…it will survive. 15 years ago, maybe 20, some dude was paddling with his buddies off the coast of Maine, for some reason he had to exit the boat; it blew away…far, far away. Months later someone found it on the coast of France, a wallet still snug and dry inside the boat. The person, who found it called the city police where the address was listed, concerned that someone may have died. The police checked on the paddler who had been saved so many months before by his paddling buddies. A sea kayak can easily take someone where they should not go…if they don’t have the skill and stamina to get back. Have a realistic knowledge of your skills and ability.
Anyone can paddle without instruction…that is the danger of kayaking…it is too easy to jump in a boat and go.
Launch on a warm calm day and anyone can paddle until land is a distant horizon line away…problems arise with the weather…the wind really…when the wind arrives it changes everything…it creates waves, you get wet, it cools you off…what might have been a pleasant summer day is now a cold miserable day, even though the sun it still out…the water cools you off.
When white water kayaking, the hazards are obvious…rocks, tree branches, huge waves with swirling water wanting to suck you down, but shore, at least in WI is not far away and if you get wet and cold, it is easy to pull out and take a rest while on a river. You are far more likely to be physically injured by a rock or get some abrasion, than dying while running a rapid. And you obviously can see that skill is needed to maneuver a boat around rocks and through waves when running a river.
Sea Kayaking in the Great Lakes or on the ocean is another story. Seldom do you ever hear a story of a Sea Kayaker being injured. The stories are about death and near death…almost always from hypothermia after being lost at sea and losing the boat or being in the water and not being able to reenter. Why? Misjudgment, it boils down to misjudging your padding ability for the ever changing weather and sea conditions. 99.9 percent of the time a person in distress has paddled beyond their abilities; usually because they were not aware anything would or could happen. Simple Misjudgment.
Sea Kayaking is easy, easy to launch, easy to paddle a long distance, easy to get in trouble.
Don’t do foolish things, like paddle across Lake Michigan, or out to an island, cross Deaths Door or go far away from shore,…tempting and easy things to do. Unless you have the skills to reenter the boat, warm clothes and know your physical abilities so you can paddle back as far as you came. Can’t roll, self-rescue, re-enter a kayak on your own? Stay close enough to shore to swim back in the cold water.
If you fall out of the boat, can’t get back in, can’t get to shore, you are SOL.
Dress for immersion, if you are going away from shore, that will buy you time to lay around in the cold water, hoping and waiting to be saved when too tired to renter the boat.
Don’t do foolish things, like paddle around an island where over the southern horizon there is no land for 10,000 miles, or cross Lake Michigan, or paddle into a 25 mile an hour wind for 3 hours to reach shore or just paddle to Islands several miles offshore…don’t do foolish things like that…without the tested skills, stamina, clothing, awareness of the weather, and safety equipment. I love my life as much as anyone and hope to Paddle On for many years, so I reassess skills as I age and hope I don’t over estimate what I can do. It’s always a judgment thing, stay within your boundaries.
On a foggy day I went to Whitefish Dunes and paddled out to sea until land was no longer in sight. Risky? Yes!!!...I minimized the risk. I wore a dry suit, the light wind was blowing toward shore…so paddle back down wind and to shore I would go…I could hear the waves crashing on the beach, but the waves themselves were minimal. I know I can reenter the boat if I wet exit, can roll and brace alright, had a compass, GPS, waterproof charged cell phone (and a good signal), radio, whistle, flares, all on the life jacket which I was wearing, so in the event of a wet exit and I didn’t hang on to the boat while exiting and it blew away, leaving me alone and getting cold, I still had the ability to contact someone…but my goal is always…never be in a position where I have to be rescued.
If in doubt, stay on shore. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, know your abilities, practice and don’t exceed those abilities unless you are in a safe environment where mistakes can be made and a price not paid.
Let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
Oh yea, don’t paddle in the path of a fast moving boat…If it is bigger, faster and can run you over, stay out of the way.
Take some classes, go with friends who will share their skills, practice what you learn or stay near shore until you can safely paddle over and back.
Just stay safe, don’t get your name in the paper and Long may you run, ah paddle!