Lyttelton Kayaks.

  • Hirers and manufacturers of superior open ocean sea kayaks
  • Promoting the waters of Lyttelton Harbour to the people of Christchurch.

Sea Kayak Safety (Wet Exit / Re-Entry)


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This is our contribution to sea kayak safety.

What follows is based on this section in our Lyttelton Kayaks Safety Plan.

Wet Exit / Re-entry

Steve and I operate this sea kayak hire business.
Novice paddlers.  12̊C water. Fast moving weather systems. No guides and no chase boat.

We give the novice paddler the tools and techniques to enable unassisted re-entry after a wet exit.

What follows is the result of three years of research and trials.
We have discovered nothing new. Yet we did find that there was no sole source that gave a complete statement of the re-entry strategies.

We have designed, and now manufacture simple re-entry aids.
We have created sets of re-entry techniques.
These re-entry techniques have a robustness that guarantees success in all conditions.

If your attention is wandering then just read the sentences highlighted in bold type.
 It may save your life

We use unfeathered paddles.  

There is a range of re-entry techniques.
The appropriate technique will depend on the kayak you are paddling and the sea conditions.

There are common factors to all techniques.

When you first hit the water you will experience cold shock.
One of the things that happens is that your brain and thought processes will slow and you will lose focus of intent.
My readings state that cold shock can kill some people within five minutes, and that it is a major and mainly unrecognized cause of drowning death.
Note that this is not hypothermia. Hypothermia being a gradual cooling of the body core temperature.
Brain thought and focus is a key. You will not make good decisions after being dumped in the water. 

It is of prime importance that you know the re-entry technique you will use BEFORE being dumped.
This will give you certainty of action and ensure the best chance of successful re-entry.

There has to be a reason that you fell from the kayak.
You were either at play in benign conditions and accidently tipped out, or you were in dirty seas and were dumped. 

In both cases the kayak needs to be stabilized before attempting re-entry.  
Under benign conditions the steps needed to stabilize a kayak may be minimal.
In dirty seas you may need sponsons and perhaps a sea anchor. 

Look to stabilize your kayak prior to re-entry.  
And anyway, if you were dumped, then sponsons will give you sufficient stability so that you will not be dumped a second time.
But ( you say ) I can’t paddle effectively with sponsons. So what! If the seas are that dirty you will not make headway paddling anyway.

There are two methods we use to stabilize a kayak.
The first is to use sponsons. There are many models on the market, including our own.
The second is to use two paddles secured behind the cockpit. ( secured with rope and timber slats.)
See Postscript for D.I.Y. detail.

The other common factor is that you use your legs to lift yourself into the kayak.
Big muscles in your legs. 

You use your legs to kick the weight of your legs and hips to the surface allowing you swim on to the kayak rear deck.  
Or, when using a stirrup you use your leg to step up and into the cockpit.

Three rules so far.

  1. Know your re-entry procedure beforehand.
  2. Stabilize your kayak prior to re-entry.
  3. Use your legs to lift your weight out of the water either by swimming into the cockpit, or by stepping up from a stirrup.

Now for specific Re-entry Techniques

Single Kayak / ‘Ocean’ cockpit ( ‘Skerray’)

These kayaks with the small cockpits are the most difficult of all to re-enter.
We consider them as boats for experienced paddlers only.
We are of the view that these kayaks are not suitable as hire kayaks for novices.

We will not have them in our hire fleet.

We have two techniques for these kayaks.

1. Re-enter cockpit while the kayak is upside down and then eskimo roll upright.

Correct. A novice does not have a chance.

2. Deploy sponsons.

Swim ( kicking hard to lift your hips and legs to the surface of the water.) and scramble, while still kicking hard, onto the rear deck of the kayak. Straddle the kayak then get in cockpit.
The slightly easier and a more certain technique.

Single Kayak / large cockpit ( Looksha IV, Arluk III, Kyook, Narpa )

Two techniques.

1. ( benign conditions )

  • Attach both paddles to purpose installed fittings behind cockpit.
  • Swim ( kicking hard to lift your hips and legs to the surface of the water ) and scramble, while still kicking hard, onto the rear deck of the kayak facing the stern and lying on your stomach.
  • Work your legs down into the cockpit then ( when positioned ) twist your hips and drop your bum into your seat.

Easy. Fast and simple.

Stabilise kayak - paddle outriggers. Use legs - kicking/swimming.

2. ( dirty conditions )

  • Deploy sponsons.
  • Swim ( kicking hard to lift your hips and legs to the surface of the water.) and scramble, while still kicking hard, onto the rear deck of the kayak facing the stern and lying on your stomach.
  • Work your legs down into the cockpit then ( when positioned ) twist your hips and drop your bum into your seat.

Easy and very certain. With the advantage that you are now in a craft that is more stable and unlikely to dump you out again. If really dirty seas then deploy a sea anchor as well.

Double Kayak ( Amaruk, Tofino )

Two techniques.

Both techniques are similar. The first is fast and we recommend that it should be attempted in the first instance. The second is more certain but takes a little longer to set up.

 

1. ( first attempt )

  • Each paddler takes position facing their cockpit, on opposite sides of the kayak. Stirrups are positioned round the cockpit rims and then adjusted for length.
  • On a three count both paddlers simultaneously step up and into their cockpits.

Easy and very fast. Good communication and synchronisation is essential.

2. ( certain )

  • Each paddler takes position facing their cockpit, on opposite sides of the kayak. Stirrups are positioned round the cockpit rims and then adjusted for length.
  • The rear paddler steps up and into the cockpit while the front paddler holds rim of own cockpit to stabilize.
  • The rear paddler deploys a single sponson on the same side as the front paddler.
  • The front paddler steps up and into the cockpit.

This technique takes a little longer to setup, but it does have the advantage of being certain.

We found that in the Amaruk and Tofino the rear paddler did not have to scull to balance the kayak during re-entry of the front paddler.

Of course, in dirty conditions a second sponson will further stabilize the kayak.

Postscript

Equipment:

( This works for our Necky kayaks. )

Stirrup

  • length of 8mm anchor rope.
  • small loop spliced at one end.
  • prussic knot at other end with loose end tightly spliced back in.

You now have a lasso where the size of the loop can be rapidly altered. Ask a mountaineer or your grandfather about prussic ( prusik ) knots and their properties. Anchor rope as it sinks so is easier to mount. Also easier to splice.

Small loop takes s.s. caribiner to attach to saddle on deck.

‘Daisy chain’ ( Monkey Chain / Chain Sinnet Knot ) and stow on deck behind paddler.

Sponsons

  • many brands available commercially. All appear suitable.
  • we manufacture a sponson that is basically a drysac with a manual / automatic inflation valve.
  • we have short cord permanently fixed on each side of the deck close to the cockpit.
  • the cords have a small timber ball at each end and run through a prussic knot at the deck attachment point.
  • to deploy the cord is passed under the kayak and secured to the handle of the drysac with a simple overhand knot.

Infinitely adjustable. Simple.

It is not difficult to paddle with sponsons deployed as they tend to trail behind the cockpit once you have forward momentum.

Slats

On the deck behind the cockpits of each of our Necky kayaks are four saddles supporting a securing net made of bungy cord.

We use the saddles and discard the bungy cord.

  • two timber slats. Each slightly shorter than 12".
  • 5.5mm hole drilled at each end of each slat.
  • 6mm cotton cord threaded through the saddles and holes and tightly tied off.
  • the slats sit mid-line.
  • to deploy, the paddle blade(s) is slipped under the slats, then the slats are pulled apart. This action locks the paddle blade to the deck.

Cotton cord swells when wet and holds in the timber holes.

Very fast. Very simple. And of course we use only unfeathered blades.

For some reason the paddle does not scissor and yet it is really easy to slide out and retrieve once back in the cockpit.

This is a brilliant ( and fast ) system for an assisted rescue The assist kayak holds the outer end of the paddle on their foredeck. A stirrup can be deployed.

Sea Kayaking Safety & Rescue

Author John Lull.

Subsequent to writing this page I discovered an early edition of this book in a second hand bin.

Best book on the subject I have ever read.

I recommend it to all.

Fantastic.

John Lull advises "that the newest (2nd) edition is titled:

'Sea Kayaking Safety & Rescue' with the subtitle: (from mild to wild, the essential guide for beginners through experts).  It's the same as the first edition, except for a new chapter at the end on stroke technique (fully illustrated), which I think is an important component to safe and enjoyable paddling.  Best way to get the book is from Amazon (or directly from Wilderness Press).  Here's the Amazon link:"

http://www.amazon.com/Sea-Kayaking-Safety-Rescue-Conditons/dp/0899974767/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1308690033&sr=1-7

Google Tsunami Rangers.

Yes, we do things differently and we use unfeathered paddles, but we know enough from our research to recognize the value of this John Lull book.

Safe paddling.
Bill & Steve.