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First Time Out :-(

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For months I've been reading posts about yak flings and successful first time outings only to look at my own yak and wonder when I'll have the time to enjoy it. Yesterday morning I was up at the crack of dawn and all ready for my maiden voyage. At 5am, I'm checking out a little spot in Jamaica Bay. There's a light wind, it's warm out, ...what a beautiful day its going to be.

 

Five minutes later I'm getting the feel of sitting in the yak in knee deep water. I practiced paddling along the shoreline for a while noting how far I can lean side to side before I start to lose my balance. Before long I'm out and about coming back to shore every 10 minutes or so and starting over.. It's my first time out and I don't want to get over confident.

 

Someone came to where I had been beaching the yak and launched a jig right over my head. He then yelled "Any fish out there?". I said "nope, not one" and took the hint. ..time to pack it in. I should have called it a day then but I decided to go to another spot.

 

This spot was the same as the first and I pretty much did just as I had done earlier. I practiced paddling and turning but this time not returning to shore.

 

All was fine until I tipped and ended up in the water. OK, no big deal, it's just like getting back on a windsurfer..Not so. I tried a few times and couldn't do it. Treading water, I turned towards shore and realized that even the closest point was a good distance away. The longer I stayed still trying to come up with a plan, the further the current was taking me from my launch site. OK, time to swim to shore with yak in tow. I started side strokin' it back.

 

Fighting the wind, towing a yak and swimming against the current had me out of breath in no time. I stopped to check out my progress and noticed the current was getting the best of me. I looked around for all the boats I had seen earlier, none to be found. I looked towards the bridge I was being pulled to and the beach I launched from but both were empty. Panic and fear set in. Now I feel like I cant breathe and I start wheezing. I'm in trouble.

 

I went from side stroking it to pulling the yak onto my chest and hugging it to try and catch my breath. Swimming wasn't an option anymore, my arms felt like lead and I couldn't breathe. All I could do was whip my legs back and forth and point myself towards the shoreline that I wasn't going to reach. I watched as my paddle fell off the yak and floated away.

 

My legs tired pretty fast and the wheezing got worse. All I could do now was concentrate on hugging the yak and trying to breathe. I head someone shout "Grab the sinker....let go of the canoe and grab the sinker." Someone fishing on the bridge had been watching me all along as I drifted towards it and lowered a sinker to me. I saw it dangling in front of my face but didn't know what to do. I didnt/couldn't grab it. I'm sure fear had the best of me.

 

I went just under the bridge and noticed that I was a few concrete supports away from a spot on shore. I concentrated on swimming, kicking, dog paddling whatever it took to get to the next concrete support, and then the next until I felt my knees scrape the rocky bottom..I made it.

 

Once there, I couldn't even stand. I managed to beach the kayak in front of me and crawl on top of it to sit. I stopped wheezing once I caught my breath and then started to vomit. A minute later I was out cold.

 

I was awakened by the fishermen who told me to grab the sinker. He managed to hook and retrieve my paddle from up on the bridge and walked down to return it. He asked me why I didn't let go of the yak and grab the sinker he lowered. Besides seeing 2 of him, I had no idea what he was talking about. I managed to thank him for checking up on me and also for retrieving my paddle. I think I fell asleep a while longer, got up, made my way back to my car, loaded it and spent the rest of the day passed out in bed with a killer headache and sore muscles.

 

Looking back I can say that my level of stupidity was only slightly less than the luck I had. Had I not been wearing a lifejacket, the outcome may well have been tragic. If I had done any of the following, perhaps I could have avoided the mess I got myself into:

 

I forgot that as enjoyable as kayaking might be, it's dangerous.

As inexperienced as I was, I should have had buddy with me.

I should have practiced bailing and climbing back into the yak before going into water over my head.

I panicked because I didn't know what to do..I should have had a plan for different situations I might find myself in.

I should have had a whistle with me.

If I had a tow rope on the kayak instead of in the car, I would have been able to have both arms free.

 

 

I know there are other beginners like myself posting/lurking on the board. I wrote this with the hopes that they read it and don't make the same mistakes I did. You might not be as fortunate as I was.

 

Matt W

 

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Matt, Let me first state, thanks for sharing your story with the board and I am very glad you survived to tell the story. I know this has happened many times to kayakers and has had tragic results.

 

No matter what anyone tells you to contrary re-boarding a SOT or even worse re-entering a SIK is no cruise in the park. Add to it the emotions of fear, panic, desperation and you have the formula for death. Matt, you have done well figuring out the should of and would of list.

 

Everyone should take heed to Matts adventure and if you haven't practiced re-entry do it ASAP with a partner. Do it over and over till it becomes an automatic action. If you find it difficult in shallow water multiply that by 10 in deepwater when the emotions get ahold of you. I for one have heard of TOO many anglers dying this season while participating in our sport.

 

Please be safe and prepared out there!

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Matt,

Really glad you made it through this ordeal. Thanks for sharing this with the board. Too often we take things for granite, me included. Hopefully this story will help everyone understand, SAFETY FIRST! I always try to yak with a friend. Glad to hear your OK.

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Glad you made out OK. JimW makes a good point in all this. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Leave the rods at home on the first few trips. Go out with more than one person, ALWAYS! Take classes in the off season. Most Paddling clubs have scheduled pool sessions thru out the winters. Sit in guys, learn to roll, if you plan on staying out in big waters, in cold temps. If you go over, a good roll is the greatest confidence builder you can have, plus it lowers your exposure to hyperthermia causing conditions during wet exit/rentry. Don't think you can do anything cause your a strong person, mothernature is the biggest teacher of humility around.

 

Bob

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Phew...That is scary.

 

I would just like to comment on the value of a wetsuit. I always wear at least the FarmerJohn part of my wetsuit in the saltwater. If it rough or cold, I'll wear my thin neoprene shirt, and fingerless gloves as well. I just think it's my best insurance plan, and makes a swim in salt water comfortable.

 

This weekend I was with a friend in a Sit-In in the Ocean and he rolled it near the rocks. Had shorts and Tee-shirt on...not good. Glad I was there to help him out.

 

Good advice on "practice".

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Hi JimW, The roll is doing great! I throw at least one over every time I get out. On side and Off side are almost second nature. Still doing strictly the Pawletta ( extended paddle) Roll. I tried it finally with a tethered rod. Found I need at least a 5 foot leash on the rod, and I keep it on my right side. Even did it with some good size ground swells, 2-3 footers! Lots of fun!!

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Glad to see you made it and you are only suffering with a headache! You said you were wearing your PDF, that is the main reason you made it and were able to write down your adventure. You also practiced in close to shore, another good idea for others to follow. Don't let this scare you, you've learned alot and like any sport you'll learn more. As for me, your story made me aware of my own short comings and the need for practice. Oh, a paddle leash should be on your "must buy" list. Thanks for your personal account of a bad situation with a good ending.

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Hey, Matt: I was getting sick reading your story-thanks for sharing it. I have only used a yak in the salt 1 time, and I see how different it is from calm water. Thank god you got a second chance.

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Matt, I'm very glad that you're OK. A bit wiser for the wear.

 

For everyone, one can not overempahzize becoming familiar with all aspects of this sport and making sure that we know what to do when. Places with deep water and currents are not the best places to learn. Doing so alone in such places adds to the difficulty factor. I've been with a few guys on their first outing when they dumped. Since I was there I calmed them down and we turned it into a learning experience. I coached them back on and they didn't panic because they had experienced help right there just in case. I actually find it very easy to get back on an SOT, but I know what I'm doing because I put in the time to make sure that I know how. Same with the surf. August, is the time to practice, when the water's warm, and get some other guys to be there just in case.

 

Again, I'm glad that you're OK, and I hope that this experience doesn't discourage you from further participation, but you'll use it to build upon and change your approach for a while.

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There is another safety piece called the bowline right? A line clipped to the bow reaching halfway back on the kayak, clipped to an eyelet. Floating poly rope. Can really help in such a situation I imagine.

 

Has anyone installed one? I bought one last year and never installed it. Think I will add it now.

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Matt glad to hear your O.K. Like everyone mentioned above practice,practice and more practice but do it with another 1 or 2 yakkers. Also once you think your good at it try it with all your gear(rods,reels,anchor and Fish finder)on. The reason I say this is I went over on my kayak 3 weeks ago with all my gear. Luckily I was with another guy with a canoe. Because my Fish Finder battery was not mounted down inside the hull when I went over the battery hit my front hatch knocking it slightly open lots of water got inside my hull I wasn't able to paddle anywhere. I was with a flooded kayak. I was towed to shore where I emptied out the water from the yak. I learned a big lesson from that. I needed to secure the battery so it doesn't move from the area I mount it to. Also since I had everything tethered I didn't lose a thing. Also I will never fish alone on the kayak. No matter how good you think you might be you never know what might or could happen.

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Matt,

 

I'm VERY glad that you got out of there ok! Sorry that it was such a very bad experience for you. I have been fortunate that my experiences have been very enjoyable. BUT I have seen how it could always turn against us. Once in a while it has turned against me. Not "yet" in a kayak. But, given time, I'm sure it will. Thanks to honest reports like yours it keeps the rest of us in a reality check. We all need to prepare for the worst, and none of us ever truly expects it.

 

What kind of yak do you paddle Matt? I hope this bad experience can turn into something positive for you. Glad you are OK.

 

 

 

------------------

DougC

SOL #134

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Since we're all talking safety, I had an idea and maybe someone has tried it. Anyway, how about a foot stirrup to assist in a wet entry. Just a 3 foot or so length of good rope attached to an eyelet with a loop in the end for your foot. If you dump, grab the boat, put your foot in the stirrup, and push back (away from the boat, as opposed to straight down, which might flip the yak) while climbing over the deck. Keeping everything pretty much horizontal it should be fairly stable and help with a wet entry. Of course, this really only applies to SOT kayaks. Either way, I'm definitely gonna practice wet entries, and experiment with the stirrup idea next time out. Especially since I'm new at this, and haven't dumped or practiced/executed a wet entry yet. I'll let you know if the stirrup thing works.

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