Useful Techniques

As well as learning to use the paddling strokes there are several other useful techniques, such as rafting up , the ferry glide, and rescues .

Rafting up

There are times when paddlers want to be together: for a snack, to sort out a problem, for mutual reassurance, to decide where to go next, to watch the Instructor.  A raft is the way to do it. Each paddler holds the boats alongside, and paddles are usually placed across the raft, in front of the paddlers. Paddlers at the ends can paddle with one arm to keep the raft pointing in a chosen direction, or even to make very slow progress. To join a raft, plan your approach so that you arrive alongside without colliding, and without having to draw in from some distance. To leave, a couple of draw strokes, then paddle away. Two boats coming together can simply paddle a converging course: stop paddling when you are close enough to coast together. On flat water your raft can have as many boats as you can find. Once conditions become choppy, holding a raft together can be arm-wrenching, and there is the potential to crush hands as the boats bang together. In heavy seas, two boats is the limit.

Ferry Glide

A Ferry Glide is a way to cross a flowing stream, without moving up or down-stream, as when, for instance, you want to avoid some obstacle. Paddle forward (or backward as appropriate) at an angle to the current, and adjust your speed so that you move across, and not forward or back. The angles will depend on the speed of the current and your own speed. On a fast current start with a small angle, and make sure you are leaning downstream. (Yes, vector addition. The same principles apply when navigating on the sea (tides and currents) or in the air (wind).)

Rescues

By ‘rescue’ we mean the emptying of a kayak or canoe and the return of the paddler/s to the cockpit after a capsize. Capsises happen when paddlers are in conditions beyond what they can normally handle, either because they are trying something new, or because wind and wave have risen. The rescue must be achieved in the conditions that caused the capsize, and the rescue will also put the paddler back into the conditions that led to the problem in the first place. (It may be time to head for home.) The more buoyancy in the boat, the easier it will be to rescue-add more buoyancy to your boat. The first priority in all rescues is the capsized victim. Make sure the person is calm and relaxed, and ignore any floating gear until later.
Types of Rescues: X Rescue, Sea Kayak Rescue, Flip and Pump Rescue, Wedge Rescue and Buddy Rescue

X Rescue

The X Rescue is the most versatile method, and can be used on most boats from BATs to 6 metre open canoes. (Sea kayaks do need something a little different.)

Key Points

After the Capsize: Victim

  • Leave the boat inverted. (Turn it up and you put more water in.)
  • Hold it by the bow (preferably) in one hand, with the paddle in the other.
  • Ignore anything floating away-let go of your boat and it can drift faster than you can swim.
  • Watch for your rescuer.

Approach: Rescuer

  • Put your paddle into its leash.
  • Talk to the victim, giving clear, concise instructions.
  • Plan your approach to pick up the victim and the boat in one move.
  • Have the victim transfer to your bow.
  • Put your paddle aside.

Lift

  • Place your nearer hand on the upturned hull.
  • With the other, grab the toggle or end loop.
  • Lean on the boat, then push away to give some impetus for the lift.
  • Use the decklines (if present) to haul the boat across. Be quick at this stage to avoid the stern filling.
  • Grab the cockpit rim as soon as you can reach it.

Rock

  • With both hands grasping the cockpit rim, drag the boat to and fro to drain it. Have the nearer side slightly higher so that it clears your own cockpit rim.
  • Don’t try to remove every last drop -you won’t be able to and will waste time if you try.
  • Flip the boat upright on your deck

Launch

  • Put the boat back into the water.

What if…

If the boat is waterlogged (because of insufficient buoyancy), you may find it difficult to handle. Let the victim do some work.

  • The victim reaches across the rescuer’s deck to grasp the toggle or end loop of the capsized boat.
  • Drag it across the deck.
  • With feet on the gunwale, keep pulling until the cockpit is over the rescuer’s deck.
  • Pull downwards to begin draining.
  • The rescuer must hold the boat by the cockpit rim as usual.
  • The victim must stay in contact at all times, and return to the rescuer’s bow.

Re-entry

There are alternative methods, depending on preferences and conditions, with all methods requiring a stable raft. Head first is easy, done the right way. Some people prefer to come over the rescuer’s boat. Feet first does not require the victim to move around the raft.

Stabilise

  • Lean hard on the victim’s boat, with the peak of the deck in your armpit.
  • That hand can hold the victim’s paddle. Hold the cockpit rim with your other hand, ready to assist the victim if necessary.

Head First

  • Move around the raft to the cockpit.
  • Put one hand each side of the cockpit rim.
  • Kick the feet to the surface.
  • Make a breaststroke kick and pull with the arms to come across the deck. (1)
  • Keep moving, face down, until the feet are in the cockpit.
  • Roll face up, and wriggle forward until over the seat.
  • Feet at the surface One hand each side Rescuer’s weight on victim’s boat Feet into cockpit Roll face up, wriggle forward

Feet First

  • Put an arm over each boat.
  • Lie back between the boats to bring the feet to the surface.
  • Lift the feet into the cockpit.
  • Lift up onto the deck – keep lying back.
  • Wriggle forward until over the seat.
  • Sit up.
  • Sort things out and paddle away.
  • One arm on each boat Lift feet into cockpit Next stage as 3 above

Sea Kayak rescues

Sea kayaks operate in an environment where rescues must be quick and easy: after all, the paddlers cannot turn left, paddle a few strokes and be on the bank. The boats are therefore designed to withstand flooding of the cockpit, and should be equipped with pumps, either foot or electric, so that the kayaker can paddle and pump at the same time. The boats also have decklines so that they can be grabbed anywhere along their length.

General points

After the Capsize: Victim

  • Roll the sea kayak upright. (That’s the opposite of what you would do with other kayaks.)
  • Hold it by the bow (preferably) in one hand, with the paddle in the other.
  • Ignore anything floating away-let go of your boat and it can drift faster than you can swim.
  • Watch for your rescuer.

Approach: Rescuer

  • Put your paddle into its leash.
  • Talk to the victim, giving clear, concise instructions.
  • Plan your approach to pick up the victim and the boat in one move.
  • Have the victim transfer to your bow (Wedge Rescue) or into position for re-entry (Flip and Pump).
  • Put your paddle aside.
  • Flip and Pump Rescue
  • The quickest and easiest rescue, which makes it useful if you need to do a rescue in an awkward spot, perhaps under a cliff. Simply support the boat for re-entry. When the paddler has reboarded, the pump will do the work.

Wedge Rescue

This is for when you want to empty the kayak before the paddler re-enters. It works only with boats with minimum volume cockpits, and can be hard on spray covers.

Key Points

Lift

  • Grab the bow of the boat by the decklines, with an angle between the boats of 45°-60°.
  • Pull. The bow will come up and across in front of you.
  • Keep pulling until the cockpit is clear of the water.
  • Push the boat forward, away from you along the deck, clear of the cockpit, then 45°-60° roll it towards you and watch the water draining. (Don’t try to remove every last drop -you won’t be able to and will waste time if you try.)

Launch

Roll the boat upright and slide it back into the water.

Advice

As with everything else, you need practice at this. A good idea is to practise a few rescues every time you go out, so that you can reliably complete rescues in well under two minutes. Make sure that your own boat, and the boats of your group, are adequately equipped with buoyancy, decklines, and so on.