Sea Kayak Seamanship^

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CaileanMac
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Sea Kayak Seamanship^

Post by CaileanMac » Wed Mar 23, 2005 8:21 pm

Interested to find out people's views on the topic of sea kayak seamanship and specifically what it covers and what it is?

Carrying out some research on this topic at present and interested to find out people's viewpoints / thoughts / observations.

Regards

Cailean :-)

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Douglas Wilcox
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Seamanship

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Wed Mar 23, 2005 11:51 pm

Hello Cailean,

Here is a personal perspective.

I suspect that seamaship is the development of judgement based on experience and that it is a pretty generic entity, which applies to all sorts of different watercraft. In other words I think it is mostly about understanding how weather, wind, and tide interact with the geography of your expedition area, knowing the limits of your skill in whatever watercraft you are journeying in and therefore knowing when to go and when not to go.

With respect to kayaking, I do not think it is about the level of paddling skill per se, but knowing your own limits of paddling skill.

I think that is why I have enjoyed 2 years of paddling in locations all round the Scottish coastline, yet until very recently (as you know) I did not even know the names of the various paddling strokes, never mind know how to do them.

Despite this I do not consider I have endangered myself or my companions during these 2 years, as I had seamanship gained from sailing for 47 years and windsurfing for 28 years (on the water most weekends and holidays).

Like Zoe, I not only had sailing experience but also had winter mountaineering experience and I think that is we have taken to sea kayaking.

In conclusion I would say seamanship is a transferrable skill between different watersports. Indeed it could even be gained by jetski users! (spawn of the devil etc.)

Although, on reflection, maybe not jetskiers. Jetskis seem to attract people of a different personality and I have lost count of the numer of times I have heard of jetskiers trying to cross to Ireland and running out of petrol, getting lost, getting stuck in fog, getting sea sick, colliding with each other, etc. etc.

Douglas :o)

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Mark R
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Post by Mark R » Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:08 am

I never tire of quoting the Blasket islanders' mantra...

"A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't."

The sea scares the bejesus out of me. I grew up a mile or two from England's most inland spot, and despite sea paddling for ten years now, still don't really 'get' it.

Love it though.
Mark Rainsley
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Jim
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Post by Jim » Thu Mar 24, 2005 10:40 am

Douglas is on the money I reckon.

Seamanship is definitely about all the things that come together to allow you to cope or even enjoy the situations that come your way. It is mainly experience based and transferrable from other sports or work, but I do think that training and practice in certain areas can become a part of it. For example there are a whole host of rescue techniques that are totally unique to sea kayakers, learning them will enhance your seamanship, although conversely if you have a high level of seamanship you would probably be able to improvise them anyway!

As has been suggested weather forecasting definitely forms a part of it, and Marks quote is a good one - seamanship is what allows you to make the call about whether to paddle or not, yet we could break it down and analyse the decision and discover that 9 times out of 10 the forecast was the biggest factor in it! Also the skills to read and interpret maps and charts, tide atlasses and weather charts and superimpose all this information in your head to work out just what will be feasible for the day.

An Example:
On one trip we had a forecast for deteriorating weather later and the following day which was to be our last. We had to do about 25 miles to get back to the car so options had to be considered. The weather was fine, calm and sunny so we packed and set off ASAP with the plan to 'look and see'. The term 'look and see' was in fact a gross simplification of what the trip leader was really doing, which was breaking the day into small manageable chunks, stopping wherever making camp would be feasible and reassessing the weather conditions to try and predict if the weather window would stay open long enough to reach the next possible camp spot. If we had to camp early it was unlikely we would paddle as a group the following day, however we really needed to get far enough that the group leader (and maybe one other) could make a break for the nearest civilisation on the main island and hitch back to the car, and the further we got the eaisier this would be. In the end we made it back to our start point within 20 minutes of the bad weather arriving and could have pulled out ant any time if it had got to full strength . The following morning we were glad to be driving away and not paddling in it!

What set the group leader apart? It was the seamanship to look at the map and forecast (and sky) and understand the limits of the group (and himself) and to form and reform a large number of optional plans on the fly in order not to be out in weather we didn't want to be out in!

I take improvisation and reaction to conditions for granted when sea kayaking, I presume most here do, and I think that is where seamanship comes in. Without seamanship you will need to stick to one plan and only be able to carry it off in stable weather conditions, with seamanship you can change the plan to be in the best possible place for the weather!

JIM

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Douglas Wilcox
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Flexible planning to avoid rescue situations.

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:19 pm

Developing Jim's theme about coping with changing conditions:

Image

Here we are last october setting out with a fantastic forecast for two days we planned to camp on the Garvellachs.





Leaving the grey Dogs and looking back the sky looked very pretty!



Image


We enjoyed sitting on top of the slate islands in the sun:

Image

Everyone wanted to camp out on the islands and I was not too popular when at 4pm II said it would be best to paddle up the Sound of Luing abainst the full ebb and hopefully land on Seil before dark.

We basically had to paddle really hard, resting in the eddies behind each of the islands but made it.

Image


This was the next morning:
Image

A force 6-7 NE would have been horrible in the Sound of Luing against a flood tide and may well have led to a rescue situation. My friends appreciated the judgement I had made in the morning though I had been extremely unpopular the afternoon before!

Beware of pretty skies!

Douglas :o)

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Zoe Newsam
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Post by Zoe Newsam » Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:52 pm

Everyone has made really good points so far about what constitutes seamanship: for me it doesn't necessarily relate to a particular sport- it can come from any time spent learning about the way sea state, land and weather interact.

I would say that it is less about skill in a particular sport, and more to do with the ability to look at a forecast and the weather history (very important), map/chart and tidal information and predict accurately what the sea will look and feel like when you're there. This applies whether you are a complete beginner sea kayaker or a Nigel Dennis / Gordon Brown of this world.

Once you can relate the effect that the wind (& its history) will have on the sea state on a particular coastline (beach? steep or shallow? Cliffs? Headland?etc) it will make it possible not only to decide when not to paddle, but to find somewhere that is suitable and so salvage a day on the water.

This all takes time on the water, experience and understanding and will eventually become instinctive. And that's it- for me it is an instinct & therefore undefinable!

Zoe

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Zoe Newsam
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Post by Zoe Newsam » Thu Mar 24, 2005 2:36 pm

BTW Douglas- beautiful photos of the classic cloud sequence for an approaching front!

Beware pretty skies indeed.

Zoe

CaileanMac
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Post by CaileanMac » Sat Mar 26, 2005 10:39 pm

Thank you to all who replied. Much 'mind food' in the thread for me consider when floating and trying answer the question what is sea kayak seamanship?

Mark - the Irish always get the point across in a laid back but succinct manner.

CaileanMac :-)

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Zoe Newsam
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Just curious...?

Post by Zoe Newsam » Tue Mar 29, 2005 10:33 am

Just out of curiosity- what are you researching for? Anything interesting? Fascinating subject- I think you could discuss it forever & everyone will have a slightly different take on it.

Zoe

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