Solo novice

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rec1551
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Solo novice

Post by rec1551 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:04 am

Morning all,

Having not picked up a paddle since being in the venture scouts 20 years ago I purchased a couple of SOT's (Robson Kona, OK Malibu 2 XL) this spring to use with my young family. These have been in almost continual use all summer and proved very popular with friends and family who have used them. They have also served as a reminder to me of how much freedom having a kayak gives you compared to say sailing or even windsurfing - both gear heavy sports with long 'set up' times and dependent on weather conditions. Having a love of the sea (and living 25 minutes away from South East coast) but very limited time slots which rarely coincide with good windsurfing conditions my thinking is to get involved with Sea kayaking. Its something I can just sling on the roof and drop in the sea for a couple of hours without a faff, yet could also use for more long distance tours when time permits. The SOTs are a bit limiting and I would like to get a decked kayak over the next couple of months. My question is really that though I fully intend to join a club, there are undoubtably times when I will have to kayak alone in coastal waters. Is this totally foolhardy? I am a novice kayaker but fairly experienced with tides, currents, chop, swell and other water hazards due to many years windsurfing. I obviously wouldn't be intending to paddle more than a couple of hundred meters offshore when solo but is even this too dangerous?

Sorry for the long post but I'm desperate to find a sea based sport I can do in between other comitments!

Drifter
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Re: Solo novice

Post by Drifter » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:49 am

The rule is "Don't Kayak alone"! However I am pretty much a novice and I have always kayaked alone. It is obviously much more dangerous and you have to decide for yourself whether you accept this risk. If you decide to continue don't skimp on your safety equipment. Pay very close attention to weather and sea conditions and if you are unsure then don't go. Going solo has advantages that you are under no pressure to go out in conditions which you might find uncomfortable. You might also ask yourself why you want to go kayaking.

guy
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Re: Solo novice

Post by guy » Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:45 am

Plenty of people do kayak solo - but those that do have made their own decision. The ball is in your court.
I imagine getting back on to a SOT is going to be easier than getting a "proper" sea kayak righted, emptied and re entered.
Flares VHF and an epirb all enhance your chance of being rescued should you need assistance but none are as good as a buddy.

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maryinoxford
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Re: Solo novice

Post by maryinoxford » Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:46 am

I'm fairly novice myself. I routinely paddle alone on a flat river, and if I lived within reach of the sea, I expect I'd do as you want to do, and go out on it. (I have done occasional fair-weather sea paddles, so far never alone.)

The thing I do is, think of what could go wrong, and decide how to deal with it. You want to move to a closed kayak? Practise wet exits, initially somewhere safe with a buddy handy. Get the habit of being able to release the deck and get out of the boat - then try to do it hanging on to both boat and paddle. Dress for immersion. A drysuit will save you from cold-shock, and buy you some time to sort things out. Vent the air out of it before you start, because you don't want to try swimming with airpockets in your trousers, pulling your legs up and your head down.

I understand the inclination to stay close to shore, but my limited sea experience tells me that the roughest water is close to shore, where the waves are breaking. I would work on dealing with that, rather than going further out where it's smoother. If I lost contact with my boat, could I swim to shore? I can't swim far in a drysuit. My local river is okay, it's hard to get more than 10 yards from one bank or the other. On the sea, I would probably leash my paddle to the boat. Then if I capsize, I only need to grab one or the other, and I've still got both. Could I get back into the boat? I've done a bit of practice of deep-water re-entry, but to be honest, in conditions that capsized me in the first place, I doubt if I'd manage it. So it's hang on to the boat and wait for rescue (you'll find many other discussions on raising the alarm) or get myself to shore. I'd need to choose where to paddle, that had a shore I could land on.

The sea's a nice place to be in good weather:
Image

I think the main thing is to have plans in place for when/if the conditions change.

Mary
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The Shark
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Re: Solo novice

Post by The Shark » Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:12 pm

A few years ago in cold weather I came out by Mupe Rocks in Dorset. I was fairly new, could roll but never tried it in anger. Panicking and freezing hands nearly exhausted me and luckily my paddling partner got me to shore. Putting the spray deck back on was really hard work as the fingers had a mind of their own. Had he not been there I don't think I would of drowned but it really put a downer on my confidence and it took a while to recover. Sitting in the boat is great but once your out its a completely different ball game and survival kicks in. I regularly find a beach now with a few waves to play with and improve my balance, stability and improve my confidence.

I do kayak solo within my limitations and I do get a sense of achievement when I have gone beyond my comfort zone but don't be reckless and please stay safe.

rec1551
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Re: Solo novice

Post by rec1551 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:36 pm

Mary, you are absolutely right about the impact zone, its not a great place to be unless you are surfing in to the shore. I would certainly not be kayaking alone in conditions I go windsurfing alone in - i.e wind above 20 knots and a confused sea state. You have touched on another question though - I've never been a drysuit person as windsurfing and dinghy sailing tends to favour a wetsuit. I can see that wearing 5mm of tightly fitting neoprene is not going to be comfortable in a kayak.....have drysuits come on like wetsuit technology (thinner, more flexible, warmer) in the last few years? My only experience of them is large baggy flappy things which looked like a deathtrap if they ever ripped and filled!

I am concerned about capsizing though - not really about wet exits, especially with the larger cockpits modern boats seem to have but about the viability of either a self rescue using hand pump and paddle float or getting a swamped kayak into the shore. I certainly would not consider doing any solo paddling if the only solution to a capsize was the RNLI!

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maryinoxford
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Re: Solo novice

Post by maryinoxford » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:02 pm

My drysuit is comfortable. (It ought to be - it's get-a-mortgage Kokatat.) I like it for practising wet stuff - exits, being rescued, re-entry etc. I probably don't wear enough layers under it for a long swim, but in the average temperate English summer day, I can get it right for leisurely paddling or the occasional quarter of an hour in the water.

However, swimming in it feels very inefficient, and I think it's because the fabric is relatively loose, and makes irregular shapes which must drag in the water, compared to the sleekness of a wetsuit. If necessary, I'd trust the drysuit to keep me alive in the water for quite a while (but beware cold hands, as Shark said). But I wouldn't want to commit to swimming any distance in it.

I haven't heard of anyone ripping a Goretex drysuit. Pinprick punctures are possible, from thorns or getting sharp gravel under the feet (I had this happen with a previous, thinner, suit). Such a leak will give you a damp patch on your under-fleece, but it won't flood the suit. (And a pinprick can be easily mended with a dab of Aquasure.)

I've recently bought a self-rescue gadget from America which I haven't yet had a chance to test properly; a deckbag which can be easily unclipped from the kayak and used as a paddle float. (Details here ). It certainly has more volume than the solid-foam paddle float I have at the moment, and the point is that if you have a kilo or two of weight in the bag, it will be less likely to lift out of the water if you lean to the wrong side. We'll see how it goes.

Mary
Last edited by maryinoxford on Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Owen
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Re: Solo novice

Post by Owen » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:04 pm

rec1551 wrote:...have drysuits come on like wetsuit technology (thinner, more flexible, warmer) in the last few years?

I am concerned about capsizing though - not really about wet exits, especially with the larger cockpits modern boats seem to have but about the viability of either a self rescue using hand pump and paddle float or getting a swamped kayak into the shore. I certainly would not consider doing any solo paddling if the only solution to a capsize was the RNLI!
Yes drysuits have imporved greatly.

If your on your own, can't roll and capsize, then can't self rescue your only option is the RNLI, end of story.

ianPDCC
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Re: Solo novice

Post by ianPDCC » Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:52 pm

Hi,my advice would be to join a good club first,get some basic skills ,try some rescues with others in the club, then you may find you have a different view to lone paddling as a novice,you will also be a lot safer and more able to deal with a situation if the worst should happen when you do go it alone.

Dave28
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Re: Solo novice

Post by Dave28 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 5:20 pm

I go out coastal with the club to build up experience in conditions I would not consider alone.

I also paddle solo in the river part of the estuaries.

I regularly practice wet-exit and self rescue during club training sessions, in conditions worse than those in which I paddle solo, using an inflatable paddle float; and a pump was a very early purchase. As far as rolling's concerned, I wish!

On balance I prefer paddling solo.

I'm not sure what drifter's getting at with his last sentence.

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delphinidae
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Re: Solo novice

Post by delphinidae » Fri Sep 04, 2009 5:37 pm

I'm a novice in the sense of still having to rely on other people to be rescued, but I often kayak solo. I don't know if it is what I prefer yet.

However, the degree of over-caution required to kayak solo and "get away with it" when you can't roll or self-rescue does impose strict limits on when and where you can go. Things that you might not even notice when paddling in a group (like a weak/moderate but consistent breeze or small swells/currents) have the potential to make you feel uncomfortable and spoil the fun somewhat.

It's hard to describe the effect on confidence that having other kayakers around has, but I'm sure it's more than the reassurance of someone being there to rescue you if you fall in; I'm convinced that there is some kind of enhanced spatial awareness you get from being to able to observe other paddlers paddling in the same stuff that you're paddling in.

This is why I think you should join a club or get some coaching sooner rather than later; it's the fastest way of extending your comfort zone (solo or otherwise) by experiencing conditions that you would never go out in on your own (at your current skill level).

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AndyC#2
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Re: Solo novice

Post by AndyC#2 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 5:58 pm

The current (July 2009, Issue 16) of Ocean Paddler has an article by Sean Morley on solo paddling, and for that matter another good one by Jeff Allen on incident management, which may also be relevant.

dwbald
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Re: Solo novice

Post by dwbald » Fri Sep 04, 2009 6:27 pm

Hi its been said already but join a club get the basics firmly back under your belt. Off course after you wont be a solo novice:)) You will meet like minded individuals go out with them, when possible and pick there brains.

Planning is key not just weather, sea state, tides etc, but what gear to carry, practiced self rescue, escape routes, landing spots, emergency procedures to name but a few considerations. Most of these things with a wind surfing back ground wont be new just build on it. If you feel up to a trip do it but be brutally honest prior to it.

Solo in a sea kayak can quickly become more and more committing build up to it with easy solo's first.
And release pressel...
Cheers Dave B

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Re: Solo novice

Post by rockhopper » Fri Sep 04, 2009 6:45 pm

I like to think of the confidence being in a group gives you compared with paddling solo is a bit like walking along a line 6" wide.... if the line is flat on the ground it is really easy to do but, if the same line has a 6 foot drop either side (like walking along the top of a wall) then it suddenly becomes much more difficult. The task itself has not changed but the percieved danger makes it harder.
Undoubtably it is often safer to paddle in a group but learning to relax when paddling solo helps to keep a perspective on things.

Rog.

rec1551
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Re: Solo novice

Post by rec1551 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:32 pm

Well - thank you for the intelligent replies. At least my solo paddling is not being dismissed out of hand. I shall certainly take a great deal of care and start off on estuary and tidal rivers like the Cuckmere Haven area and Poole harbour.

Thanks for the heads up on Ocean Paddler magazine - it looks like just the ticket, a kind of Surfers Path for kayakers and hopefully not the typical product push advertorial based junk one has come to expect from sports magazines these days.

I guess the next post will be 'what boat?'!

Drifter
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Re: Solo novice

Post by Drifter » Sat Sep 05, 2009 11:12 am

Dave28 wrote:I go out coastal with the club to build up experience in conditions I would not consider alone.

I also paddle solo in the river part of the estuaries.

I regularly practice wet-exit and self rescue during club training sessions, in conditions worse than those in which I paddle solo, using an inflatable paddle float; and a pump was a very early purchase. As far as rolling's concerned, I wish!

On balance I prefer paddling solo.

I'm not sure what drifter's getting at with his last sentence.
My last sentence was asking why Rec wanted to take up Kayaking as I think people have different goals and aspirations when going kayaking. He said in his first post that he was interested in wind surfing which I think is a sort of challenging /adrenaline like sport and if he intends go kayaking for the same reasons then perhaps solo kayaking as a novice is not for him.

I am really a loner and perhaps not the best person to contribute to this discussion. When you are alone you must stay within you limitations and accept that no-one is going to help you if you get into difficulties.

There is a lot of emphasis is put on rolling these days but perhaps is is more important to stay upright! In my youth (a long time ago) I canoed up the west coast of Scotland in a double canoe (kayak). I don't think it would have been possible to roll that boat. There are a lot of books now available on kayaking which will help fill in gaps in your learning curve.

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MrNiceGuy
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Re: Solo novice

Post by MrNiceGuy » Sun Sep 06, 2009 4:54 pm

Hi rec1551. I am a member of the Cuckmere kayak club and regularly kayak there and kayak surf. The meanders are fantastic for building confidence as the water is always noticably warmer than the main river. Be careful with the main stretch as if you catch the tides wrong, you are in for a long portage. Be careful with the river mouth too. There can be a noticable rip tide there sometimes.
Good luck and see you down there sometime maybe. Joe
rec1551 wrote:Well - thank you for the intelligent replies. At least my solo paddling is not being dismissed out of hand. I shall certainly take a great deal of care and start off on estuary and tidal rivers like the Cuckmere Haven area and Poole harbour.

Thanks for the heads up on Ocean Paddler magazine - it looks like just the ticket, a kind of Surfers Path for kayakers and hopefully not the typical product push advertorial based junk one has come to expect from sports magazines these days.

I guess the next post will be 'what boat?'!
http://www.cvcc.org.uk
CuckmereValleyCanoeClub

rec1551
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Re: Solo novice

Post by rec1551 » Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:13 pm

I'm sure I'll see you around Joe. I spoke to a chap called Martin (I think) at Cuckmere this morning. I was just coming off the water having paddled my SOT up the meanders and along the coast a bit this morning. There seemed to be a good turnout and people were still arriving. Unfortunately I had had to get my paddle in early. I'll probably join next spring.

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MrNiceGuy
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Re: Solo novice

Post by MrNiceGuy » Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:40 pm

Yes, I was there. Yeah I know Martin (blue VW van). It would be good if you joined the club, it is absolutely brilliant, but Im not sure if they cater for Sea Kayaking but not sure.
See you 'round.
Joe.
rec1551 wrote:I'm sure I'll see you around Joe. I spoke to a chap called Martin (I think) at Cuckmere this morning. I was just coming off the water having paddled my SOT up the meanders and along the coast a bit this morning. There seemed to be a good turnout and people were still arriving. Unfortunately I had had to get my paddle in early. I'll probably join next spring.
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islanders66
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Re: Solo novice

Post by islanders66 » Sun Sep 06, 2009 8:15 pm

I would like to get another windsurfer some day but it's won't be replacing my kayak. A sea kayak has minimal up keep and is a great way to get out on the water as much as you like. IMO it has the best bang for the buck.

A big risk is the very first time you are in a sea kayak. Even an advanced windsurfer will struggle with getting in and trying to paddle, then suddenly might capsize so quickly that you don't catch a breath of air, and your head will be just beneath the surface.

All you have to do is pull the grab loop to the spray skirt and you should pop right out, although it's natural to try and lift your head instead.

After that you need to be very confident that you can reenter your kayak after a capsize.

It's usually a lot rougher out there than it looks and real easy to get swept into more than what you might fully prepared for at that time.. just a heads up.. it's a great sport.. and even if you get on the fast track.. be real cautious your first few years if you go out solo..

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jcox
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Re: Solo novice

Post by jcox » Sun Sep 06, 2009 9:43 pm

Had you thought of trying a few coastal trips with the SOTs you already have? Kit your "person" with the stuff you'd need for the sea, and then use your SOT as the vehicle.

Since you'll be able to self rescue with certainty, all you have to worry about is everything else :-)
Well the forecast said it would be good.

rec1551
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Re: Solo novice

Post by rec1551 » Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:18 pm

jcox - thats what I'm doing at the moment - I paddled a couple of miles along the coast this morning. However, when paddling poole harbour (chain ferry to wareham quay and back) the other day on a SOT I ended up heading into quite a breeze up the channel and felt a bit exposed and the boat kept getting blown off course. I think I'm ready to move on to a higher performance boat but don't really want to buy a Scupper Pro or Bic scarpa.

I'm sure I'll still use my little SOT alot for surfing and of course the big double is brilliant for the family but I'm a reasonably driven individual when it comes to endurance sports and so would like to use the fastest/most efficient equipment possible given my novice skill level

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Re: Solo novice

Post by Ceegee » Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:19 pm

Practice your self-rescues!

When you can do this, you should be reasonably ok.

Unfortunately IMHO, solo-kayaking is pretty gear-heavy. Dress for the water temperature (a dry-suit ideally), have safety gear (VHF, flares and/or EPIRB dependinmg on where/how far out you plan on going, and ensure your boat is properly kitted (decent hatches, pump, deck lines etc.).

IMO the main tool when soloing is a healthy sense of self preservation and respect for the conditions (i.e. common sense) but this assumes a working knowledge of how tides, weather etc. work (which I am sure you have from windsurfing). I can recommend "Sea Kayaker's Deep Trouble: True Stories and Their Lessons from Sea Kayaker Magazine" for examples of what can and does go wrong, usually completely avoidable in hindsight.

Have fun

Steve
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Jurassic
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Re: Solo novice

Post by Jurassic » Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:49 am

This is an interesting post for me as I can see a lot of parallels between your situation and mine. I bought a double SOT a couple of years ago for myself and my wife to use. We used it a fair bit but I wanted to paddle more often than my wife did. Initially I paddled the SOT solo which was okay but hard work so I started thinking about another kayak. Inspired by the stories and photos on here I started looking at touring and sea kayaks. I did some white water paddling when I was a kid but my main activity now is windsurfing and I wanted the kayak as a light wind alternative (basically if it's windy I'll be out windsurfing not paddling). I initially wanted a Venture Easky 15 which seemed a great compromise for a beginner like myself but acknowledging that a lot of my paddling would be solo (I work shifts so like to get out when most folks are at work) and my lack of experience, I ended up buying a second hand Robson Maui off ebay. It's shorter and more beamy than an Easky (a lot more so than a pukka sea kayak) so is very beginner friendly. I can easily do a cowboy re-entry (I was amazed how easy it was when I first tried it) as the boat has a huge ccockpit and is so stable but I also carry a paddle float and can do a paddle float re-entry too. Ultimately I will learn to roll and I'm already thinking about getting a plastic sea kayak next year but I've had some great trips in the Robson on various scottish Lochs, the Clyde estuary and some sheltered sea paddles in good conditions. I love it.
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