Paddling alone

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KL
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Paddling alone

Post by KL »

How many do so regularly - more than they do in company? And how experienced are you? Do you often feel exposed, and how often do you think its just great? Do you camp out often? I'd love to hear other peoples experiences, all advice says to paddle in company, but thats often not possible for me and I do love the serenity of just me, the boat and the sea...

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Jim
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Re: Paddling alone

Post by Jim »

KL wrote:How many do so regularly - more than they do in company? And how experienced are you? Do you often feel exposed, and how often do you think its just great? Do you camp out often? I'd love to hear other peoples experiences, all advice says to paddle in company, but thats often not possible for me and I do love the serenity of just me, the boat and the sea...
Not often because I don't have transport of my own. It can be very liberating and highly enjoyable. Sense of exposure is down to perception and confidence.

Basically if your comfort zone lies within BCU guidelines, or if you know nothing about the BCU but are relatively inexperienced and nervous, then don't paddle alone. If you have developed a comfort zone beyond needing to follow prescriptive advice then you can make your own choice, and will.

Did I just give out prescriptive advice to eschew prescriptive advice?

This subject crops up a lot, you will find that whilst I am a whitewater paddler converted to the sea, a great many of us were formerly mountaineers, climbers, hillwalkers, mountain bikers etc. The result of this is that most people from such backgrounds are already used to dealing with the environment, long days of physical activity, navigation and on the fly risk assessment, and with doing those other sports solo, so they don't have any additional concerns. River paddlers on the other hand are much more used to team work and having dry land within a few metres so some of them can really struggle to transfer, and when they do the last thing they want to do is paddle solo.

If you want an interesting solo paddling story, see if you can dig up a thread from June(ish) last year where I set out to race my boss in her yacht from Croabh to Crinan, but in the end the weather was too bad for the yacht.....

Jim

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Post by rockhopper »

I agree with you on the joys of paddling alone. The ability to make your own decissions without discussion, the solitude, being able to be alone with your thoughts, not having to worry about anyone else. I find that, especially with a busy family life where there is always other people to consider and also running a couple of small companies, getting that time to yourself is idyllic and also essential...gives you a chance to get everything back in perspective.
On the other hand, isn't paddling with mates also great...brilliant company, someone to share experiences with, someone to keep an eye on you and possibly temper rash decisions.

All in all each seems to compliments the other. I would not always want to paddle alone but I do relish the times that I do.

I think that the thing with paddling alone is that I automatically seem to compensate on the safety aspect. I will choose easier routes with less tide and a better weather window. I will take greater care and carry more safety equipment. Caution is much more at the front of my mind than if I was with other paddlers.

Paddling can be dangerous whether alone or in a group but then so can riding a motorbike or driving a car. That's part of the reason that they are such fun. It is just a matter of gauging the fun against the risk level.

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Post by nickcrowhurst »

Kirsty, the two replies you have received above are highly intelligent and thoughtful. From my own experiences as a lifelong rock climber and kayaker, I would say that I often feel less safe when I am kayaking in company. I recenty arranged a trip with A, (whose competence and equipment I knew) who said it would be good if B, who I did not know, were to join us. At sea, it became apparant that B had no safety equipment, an unsuitable kayak, and an unjustified confidence. I turned back to shore, followed by A and B. I have noticed recently that sea kayak incidents requiring the RNLI have taken place when large groups of kayakers have been out together. It must be dificult in such groups to assess accurately the skills of each person. On the other hand, kayaking in a group when one is the least skilful can be very reassuring!
If you want to sea kayak alone, I suggest a long learning period with a qualified BCU coach, leading eventually to the 5* award, and extra coaching to enable a reliable combat roll and re-entry and roll in rough water. If you then carry a DSC enabled waterproof VHF radio (Uniden Mystic), a cellphone in a waterproof bag, flares, manual pump, electric pump, paddle float, strobe on your bouyancy aid, spare paddles etc, etc, you can still die quickly from hyperthermia after a capsize, so I'm glad to see you are asking about clothing in another thread.
This will all seem totally over the top for an afternoon paddle to see the seals at Arisaig, but I believe it was Robin Knox-Johnston who said that the most important thing to take to sea was a large dose of apprehension.
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steve-m
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Post by steve-m »

I have paddled and camped solo around the Solent and Isle of Wight. The serenity of solo paddling can be challenged when you round the Needles and find altogether stronger sea conditions and the austere beauty of the sea cliffs can change to feeling a little intimidating with no one else around to lift your spirits, you have to be ready to do it yourself. You cannot afford to lose heart alone at sea with a big swell running.

All your skills need to be sharp, particularly landing and launching from difficult beaches. And the sea and the weather have the habit of turning even the most benign beach into a difficult one if they feel in the mood. If you did get trashed trying to launch or land i think that might be where you would most miss having some others to help.

I carry a foam paddle float for self rescues. But, although i have learned to use it for self rescues in practise situations, it always remains a question as to whether I could do it for real in a difficult sea! Nonetheless if you are going solo in the changeable waters around the UK you need some rolling and self rescue techniques potentially availalble.

But, having said all that, paddling solo is a great experience, if with all that has been said in the replies you are still keen, then go for it.

Camping solo is easy enough with just one small tent people usually hardly notice you are there, and if they do, if you are on your own they are quite likley to be friendly and helpful. I got invited to join in with a beach barbecue by the locals when I was camping solo on the Isle of Wight.
Steve-M Shropshire

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Post by Mark-Tozer »

Solo paddling can be a deeply rewarding experience and I would encourage anyone to do it within their range of experience

Perhaps I'm more cautious and maybe suggest that, if you've never paddled alone, then start small and then slowly get more ambitious. Many of the sea kayakers who have achieved significant solo journeys - Paul Caffryn, Wendy Killoran, Chris Duff, Fiona Whitehead to name but a few didn't just get up one morning as and say 'oh I think I'll paddle solo around a major land mass this week'. They mostly sprang from humble origins

The trick is to build your sea knowledge, paddling skills and reference base of trips wich will go towards helping your decide 'what am I prepared to do alone?' and 'what would I do with friends?'

The process of self inquiry to pursue after that would be 'what do I want to achieve?' and 'what would I do if it goes wrong?'

I've completed several coastal trips around the North Wales coastline on my own in a variety of choice conditions and on some occasions come off the water saying 'never again!' but I wouldn't circumnavigate Anglesey solo as I'd get bored my own company. Perhaps that's John Willacy's approach when he sets those record times around the island (not enough time to think about the mortage etc).

Finally, consider the consequences if it did go to the wall. Mountaineering, sailing, climbing, caving and sea kayaking, as examples, are replete with stories of 'heroes and fools' on epic adventures. Perhaps the heroes are those who know when to turn back or ask for help. Maybe the fools just stayed out one hour too long.

I'll leave you with this quote "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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Post by geyrfugl »

Many of the sea kayakers who have achieved significant solo journeys - Paul Caffryn, Wendy Killoran, Chris Duff, Fiona Whitehead to name but a few didn't just get up one morning as and say 'oh I think I'll paddle solo around a major land mass this week'.
I think you'll find, by his own description in the "This is the Sea" video, that that's almost exactly what Chris Duff did !

Andy

KL
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Post by KL »

I'm glad I'm not paddling alone alone!

And that others also enjoy it as much as paddling in company. I have never been out as part of a large group and that must be a very different experience.

Everyone has focussed on the safety element of my question, and thanks for the good advice given there. Not being an adrenaline junkie I am very cautious, I don't relish the sense of exposure that Steve-M highlights. But all the same I do think that heightened awareness when you are all alone is part of the pleasure.

When I posted this I was hoping that I might enjoy some armchair paddling on a particularly grey January day and someone might inspire me with tales of their best solo trips... :) The majority of the reports are from group outings, though someone with a Qaarsut posted a lovely one somewhere, however I couldn't decide whether I'd have found the bothy creepy all by myself.

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Post by CaptainSensible »

I intend to do most of my paddling alone, but a combination of work, poor health, and bad weather have kept me off the water since acquiring my boat - when I finally take to the water, I'll be happy to share my experiences...

I find the taboo about solo sea kayaking somewhat tiresome. Of course there are major risks and pitfalls (not being fit/prepared/cautious/mindful of your limits etc.), but there are lots of successful/still alive solo sea paddlers too.

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Post by Mark R »

I love it.

The counter-argument runs, 'Ooh how irresponsible, if you are alone then who will rescue you when you screw up?'

This certainly applies to WW paddling, but less so to sea kayaking. People simply don't normally capsize and swim out of sea kayaks. Having paddlers bobbing around in the water is actually quite a difficult screw-up to achieve*.

Why? Because 99% of the skill of sea kayaking revolves around what you do and decide before you get on the water.

So yes...informed and prepared solo paddling is fair game.


*I've been sea kayaking for over a decade and haven't ever capsized yet! I've seen a sea kayaker involuntarily exit their boat on one occasion in that time.
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Post by Mark-Tozer »

KL wrote: When I posted this I was hoping that I might enjoy some armchair paddling on a particularly grey January day and someone might inspire me with tales of their best solo trips... :)
One of the most satisfy trips I try and do several times a year is Puffin Island. Not an extreme trip (unless you get the weather truly wrong) but the interaction you can enjoy with the seals, crossing Penmon Sound and something about paddling near that lighthouse always appeals to me

As for my best solo trip, I'll go and mull that one over for a bit

Perhaps a question to put forward is - what would you consider to be a good solo trip and why?
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Post by andreadawn »

KL wrote:I'm glad I'm not paddling alone alone!

But all the same I do think that heightened awareness when you are all alone is part of the pleasure.
No, you're definitely not alone alone out there KL!

I think that heightened sense of awareness is also an important safety element. You are less likely to have an accident if you are more in tune with your surroundings. Of course the consequences of having an accident will be rather different when you are by yourself but it sounds as though you already appreciate that. I'm just back from a solo rescue practice session in Coniston Water (it was arctic!), so perhaps you'll allow me the indulgence of posting a few pictures of summer solo trips on your thread whilst my feet thaw out.

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Harlosh Island, Loch Bracadale, Skye.

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Loch Dunvegan, Skye.

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Deserted beach, Ardnamurchan peninsular, Eigg and Rum in the background.

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One of my local trips, St Bees Head, Cumbria.

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Solo wild camp site, Scotland (not saying where precisely).

I started paddling with groups but increasingly go it alone, perhaps because I'm a grumpy cow and no-one wants to paddle with me! Or it may just be that there is nothing quite like being alone in perhaps the most intimidating environment on the planet.

Andrea.

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Post by Mark R »

andreadawn wrote:I'm just back from a solo rescue practice session in Coniston Water (it was arctic!)
You are quite clearly deranged, Andrea.
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Post by woody »

Paddling with other people can be plain frustrating. I would say I manage a 70/30 percent split with the largest part alone. Its nothing to be afraid of. In fact its to be looked forward to. The wilderness is a wonderful thing when experienced alone and paddling alone will deepen your experiences of it. It will also bring you closer to yourself. You have to be realistic about your ability and knowledge however, and willing to accept a larger degree of responsibility for your own fate than many are comfortable with. Its your life to risk. Take a sling to connect you and the boat so that it cant blow away if you swim. Don't use it in surf or other nasties. A "boat leash" if you like.

I agree with what Mark R said in that I regularly capsize my river boat in all sorts of situations but I have only ever once capsized a sea kayak. I was messing about in a nordy in calm conditions. I have never witnessed a fellow capsize apart from a mate who regularly got wet getting in to his old ocean cockpit, and he is one of the best boaters I've ever met.

As to trips alone well I believe you have already come across my most recent solo trip from another post.

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Post by andreadawn »

MarkR wrote:You are quite clearly deranged, Andrea.
You may not be entirely surprised to know Mark, that you are not the first person to suggest that!

Wendy Killoran's blog has some nice thoughts on the subject of paddling solo. Scroll well down the page to January 07 2007.

Andrea.

KL
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Post by KL »

Oh lovely photos Andrea! One of those beaches is home, so if you are heading very far west again let me know and I'll put the kettle on! Hope you have thawed.

Woody I loved your report and would take you up on your kind offer to paddle the beautiful Qaarsut, but I am several hundred miles too far north, so will drool over the photos instead. I look forward to you upating the site. Thank you.

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Post by Cornholio »

I do it fairly regularly- coastal jaunts and remote lochs. I can get annual leave with no notice and like to go places on the spur of the moment if the weather looks good. It makes you far more self reliant and sharpens your "what if?" thinking.
I've only recently joined a club, and only been out on one fun paddle on the Tay estuary- and as a club novice I felt like I personally let my guard down for the day, kind of abdicated my own responsibililties and things I always take care of (carrying flares/strobe/VHF) to the senior, established others in the group. It made me feel even more vulnerable than paddling alone to tell the truth!
It may be a "control freak" streak in my personality(?!), or just maybe a healthy respect for what I may encounter in a changeable environment?
Maybe others are just far better with things like leadership skills etc- being able to monitor conditions, weather etc PLUS the rest of the group?
Mind you- it's time I learned a more "group focussed" approach if I'm going to go out in a group...!!!
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Post by Vulch »

Hmm. I paddle on my own more often than not - probably 80-20 split. There are lots of valid points made above (probably all of them, in fact) but one of the main reasons I paddle alone is because I find the attitudes and interactions associated with group paddling a bit wearing sometimes! Either you are in charge (alone or in conjunction with others) or you are 'one of the group'. The former role carries responsibility and all that stuff, and the latter occasionally (often?) involves having to do what other people want, rather than what you want. These are two things I go paddling to avoid! Responsibility, and having to do things I don't want to do! Like looking after my sister's kids, and mowing the lawn! If I had a lawn that is.

If you paddle alone, you can go where YOU want to, for as long or far as you want to, and you are only responsible for you (ok, and perhaps the people who come to rescue you if it goes really wrong... which it really shouldn't - providing you do all of the things outlined in the previous posts).

It's all about R&R for me.

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Post by Cornholio »

agreed!
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Mike Marshall
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Solo Paddling

Post by Mike Marshall »

I find it fantastic thinking time and agree with Mark on fair game.
Many a day off North Wales, I just paddle straight out, instead of the usual coastal run. The total quiet a couple of miles off is fantastic along with the solitude.
Just like night trips, I recommend it to everyone, but planned within their own skill levels and the right weather.

MikeM

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Post by Mark R »

andreadawn wrote:Image
I've only just noticed what a great photo that is. It works.
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steve-m
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Armchair paddling

Post by steve-m »

[quote="KL"]I'm glad I'm not paddling alone alone!
When I posted this I was hoping that I might enjoy some armchair paddling on a particularly grey January day and someone might inspire me with tales of their best solo trips... :)

Sorry I did not mean to put you off, it's just as Bilbo Baggins said 'adventures are not all pony rides in May sunshine'. but very enjoyable and worthwhile nonetheless. i have posted some solo sea kayak and camping pictures from the Isle of Wight for your armchair paddling.

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Just the occasional old boy for company
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A difficult beach
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Steve-M Shropshire

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