Friday, January 25, 2008

Being Careful Out There

I've written on this before, and it has come up in my mind again. I refer to paddling skin on frame boats, especially alone. We've had discussions and debates about paddling alone. Kayaking can be dangerous, and doing it alone can be even more so. Sea kayakers, however, can minimize such risk by careful planning, having the right equipment and knowing and practicing rolls and other self rescue techniques. Push comes to shove, we can wet exit, hold on to boat and paddle and take a moment to size up our situation. More often than not, we simply get back into our boats, do a little pumping and go on with what we were doing.

With skin on frames, however, wet exiting may not be an option. After all, when we go over we usually take a second to let ourselves get oriented. Then, maybe, we try a roll. If we miss, we might try another. Eventually, we may decide to wet exit, however, we are likely to be a bit tired at this point and a bit short on air. Time now becomes of the essence. Getting out of a skin on frame, at least a well fitted one, can take time. It can, in fact, take more time than the paddler has air.

Watch someone getting into a tight-fitted SOF. We wiggle and struggle and hyper extend out knees to get past the masik. Once in, things are so snug that the appearance of a goose bump on one thigh will actually edge the boat (okay, so I exaggerate, but you get the point). The fit is tight, to say the least. The same thing happens when one exits a SOF. It simply takes more time than getting out of a key hole or even an ocean cockpit.

Fortunately, most of us who do this sort of thing have at least one truly bomb proof roll. More over, we can scull for long periods during which we can get our breath back. But...what if we're alone and you lose your paddle? What if you are left with just your norsaq or hands with which to roll...and we can't. When do you take that big breath of air and hope it lasts lone enough to allow you to get out? Besides, if you do make it out it may be impossible to do a re entry roll. Now what?

There are stories of men surviving such a situation by doing the Petrussen maneuver. This requires a nice baggy tuilik and the ability to get at least partially out of the boat. One gets far enough out so he can lie on his back with hands atop the over turned hull. Since his garment is still attached, he does not take on water and has enough trapped air to keep him afloat. But, remember, we're talking about being out there in a SOF alone. Other than allowing for some rest, this paddler still has to get back into the boat and roll up with his hands or norsaq.

Bottom line, traditional paddling is best done in groups or, at least, pairs. My respect for the lone Inuit hunter gows even greater.

Paddle safe...



derrick said...

great point. Especially as traditional paddling becomes more popular. It's often easier for a paddler to order a new skin-on-frame than it is to learn the skills. I don't think that traditional paddling is quite to the point of a "BMW" fashion statement, but it could be that for some and if they ended up in the situation you describe, they could be screwed. It's certianly important to say that if you are going to paddle an SOF as your primary boat, rolling becomes even more important.

I've always had mixed feelings about traditional classes that don't talk about rescues because they say the only answer is "roll up". Yeah, you should have very good rolling skills in a SOF, but what if????

Silbs said...

What Derrick said. You're right (I hate telling you that), traditional stuff has become camp in some circles. Get a designer SOF and be the man.

Michael said...

"Roll or die" is the sof motto, as you've probably heard. In a way, it's true, especially for the lone paddler. Certainly my two boats are very tricky to clamber onto and slide into even in calm eas with the paddle tucked under the rear deck line as an outrigger. Far better to try for a re-entry and roll or not exit at all, but get a solid balance brace in your skill set, then roll up from there.
Most of the groups I've paddled with do some rescue practice together as a matter of course, if not just for the fun of it.
Good post, Dick!

Capt'n "O" Dark 30 & Super Boo said...

a paddler's got to know his/her limtations.

just because someone else's skill set is stellar or something is popular, doesn't make it safe or prudent for the masses.

Silbs said...

Thanks for the good comments. I wrote that one for myself, to remind me not to push it too far.

derrick said...

LOL! Dick you always say I'm right when i re-iterate what you said!! LOL! Just shows I listen to the right people. . . . occasionally!

Eric J. said...

Paddling solo is never smart. Even a bomb proof roll can fail.