Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Hard Stuff Around The Edges
An old adage from my sailing days warned that the water wouldn't hurt you, but watch out for the hard stuff around the edges. I can recall being caught outside in storms (wishing I was ashore) and calculating the risk of trying to enter the harbor. If I did make it into the harbor without a NE wind sending a wave and me crashing into the cement break wall there was still the question of how I was going to get that 42 foot hull into the slip (I usually sailed alone). The simplest solution was to stay outside, offshore, and wait for more favorable conditions (the navy puts out to sea when severe weather is predicted). I wonder if this might be a good idea for kayakers to consider. Making such a decision will depend on several factors. First, what kind of lee shore is there? If it is a dump site for a marshmallow factory or, at least, a nice sandy beach, it may be worth taking a run at it. Will you have to surf? Which, in turn, raises the questions, do you brace well, can you bongo a wave into shore and do you have any surf experience (and, are you wearing a helmet)?
Next, how comfy are you out in the conditions in which you now find yourself? Perhaps staying out there a bit will really improve your skills and confidence. Of course you need to take into account such as the risks of hypothermia and whether or not you are alone. You might also ask yourself how the hell you got into this situation in the first place. What did you know about the weather and when did you know it (before launching).
Then there is the factor of familiarity. Do you know the area. Is there a headland you can get behind and find a more protective landing site? Are there tides where you are, and how will they change your situation in the next hour or two? Are you fatigued and need to get ashore before you lose it? did you leave a float plan with someone, or is the world unaware of where your sorry ass is at the present moment?
Lots to process, but it is something we work through even on the calmer days. It is just less obvious and less threatening when the weather and the seas are cooperating. Still, it isn't so much the water that threatens our well being. It is often the hard stuff around the edges.
Paddle safe...

1 comment:

Michael said...

Oh how well I know that lee shore feeling from my sailing days! In fact this summer another kayak and I 'rescued' a sailer who had spent a sleepless night anchored off such a shore. His engine had quit due to a clogged fuel filter and he had no spare. I managed to get aboard in the sloppy sea and help him sail her off and into more sheltered waters. All very exciting, my first kayak rescue and my first 'sail' in years!