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Pfd: park, oarlock and rescues - reality

I had some reasonably good opportunities over the weekend to try out some of the pfd park (and other related) ideas brought up in fbc's post of 1 1/2 weeks ago. I conjectured in the discussion that buckling the pfd waistbelt around the paddle shaft may work as a simple park and also give some other possibilities. Now w/ a few hours on and a few in the water over the weekend on both sat and sun under basic conditions(winds 20-30mph, waves 2-3 feet, whitecaps 20 - 80% = around beaufort 5 or less), I have some preliminary conclusions.

Initial Points:

not for dumping surf

not for rivers or moving water past fixed objects

for the rescues, test that pfd doesn't float over your head in the water when you temporarily unclasp the belt. If so add a 4-6 in webbing leash here and don't plan to unbuckle. The location is more important than the method.


As a park, this one is hard to beat. Simple quick and fast. You always know where the paddle is without looking. Its ready for instant one handed OR two handed low bracing in bad conditions.

If you've dumped, the park puts the paddle blade in a great no hands location to apply paddle float and blow it up while controlling yak.

If you try Jay Babina's paddle float lift (as described in 'seakayaker mag'), the float can be manouvered in perfect locked no hands or feet position.

other points - when just in yak and using as a park, high winds could overturn you unless you press down w/ an elbow -be careful here - This is not a leash and would only be appropriate for skilled paddlers in high wind conditions. The low bracing is close to automatic, but basic bracing skills are req'd first.

2/ ONE HANDED PADDLING (no rudder)

This procedure actually works. I was able to quite comfortably to paddle slowly against the wind and waves. I was absolutely astonished at how easy it was to low brace on either side. Turning around and paddling,low bracing and paddle steering with the waves was a snap. A feathered paddle will only paddle w/ the right hand - the 'chicken wrist' posture req'd of the left hand will otherwise drive you crazy. So unfeathered or adjustable paddles will allow either hand paddling. Over a couple of hours or so the sprayskirt will end up w/ 2 cuts about 6-8in long along the coaming on ea side because of the paddle shaft wear, but this may be acceptable depending on the situation. It'll prob take abt 1hr to wear thru. The unexpected cool bonus is if you're sick or daydreaming, keep a light but firm hold of the paddle and keep the blades oriented at 90 deg to the water. Whether or not moving water hits you from the front(being towed) or back(following wave), unless breaking, the paddle will tend to rotate to a low brace position because the majority of the water/wave hits the bottom of the blade. So no matter which way, you end up in a low brace position. Of course this can not be all the time, but it was always the case for my trials.


These next pfd rescues do NOT replace SECURED paddle float rescues, but the initial one may be the first paddle float rescue to learn. They do not equal the stability a rigidly held paddlefloat offers. If however, the harness is broken, very loose or not installed these next approaches could save a life. At the minimum they can get your body,core and head out of the water, floating in a reasonable secure and attainable position. They MAY even get you back in the yak.

The idea behind this set of approaches is to paddle float THE PERSON and DISREGARD the kayak orientation whether front or back or right side up or upside down. With the pfd park, it requires minimal to NO paddle orientation and adjusting b/c a 90 deg orientation of the paddle w/ the yak comes automatically because of the body - leg - elbow positions.

All were tested w/ a paddle float of 15# flotation - a styro float or a 1/3 to 1/2 filled inflatable clipped under my pfd centre buckle w/ abt 4" play.

3A/Last resort recovery:(everything's failed)

After dumped and paddle park attached, turn yak upside down and if possible from the back(rudder may interfere) or just near the back, start crawling up towards the centre. You'll have to lift the shaft a bit as you start, but because you start at the ends no big uppull is needed - just a gentle crawl up the yak. BUt what actually is happening when you do this is that your elbows and knees are hanging down trapping the paddle shaft so it HAS TO STAY OUT AT 90DEG!!! Its got nowhere else to go! Your weight has it jammed against the yak. My skirt kept hooking arount the stern so rotated it a few inches but when you get to the centre of the yak reach down and grab the coaming to hang on. In the conditions I tested in, I could have read a book(waterproof). The point of interest is that your core is out of the water, especially if you can mount fromm the back so that more air traps in the yak as you crawl up. Other than basic balance, this technique requires no skill and I think is probably the first basic rescue to be explained to beginners. When all else fails, this one could be it.

3B/Pfd full recovery I

These next 3(or 4) full recoveries are marginal. Although, I was fairly repeatedly succesful with them all, and although they sure could be improved with practice (on my part at least) - there are some insecure moments. However they are a fair alternative if no paddle float harness exists.

With the yak upright in the water, crawl from the stern untill the paddle shaft reaches about the cockpit. I've been secure until now - now the insecure part. Carefully sit up and while pressing down the paddle shaft on yr thighs, manouver the inside leg into the cockpit, then the outside and slip into the yak. Your stability increases greatly when in the cockpit. The paddle is attached to the pfd the whole time, and b/c you can use one hand to brace the other is available to arrange items and the spray skirt just before you slip in. The park stays on as you put on the skirt w/ one hand and pump out w/ the foot pump.

3C/ Full recovery II

With the yak upright in the water, crawl from the bow right down the yak until the shaft is just behind the cockpit. Extend paddle out as far as it will go and yet still parked. Insert legs into cockpit and cross o/s leg over top of inside. THe body will have to twist to go in. Putting lots of wt on the inside hand on the paddle shaft UNBuckle the paddle, rotate you body outward and place new inside hand as close to the other as possible. Now slip in the yak just as you do when getting in from the shore except the paddle is floating. When in the cockpit REAttach the park as it is the only way to one handed brace while you place the skirt and the other stuff that has come loose.

3D/ Full recoveries III and IV

Perform rescue 3A so you are flat on top of the upside down yak facing the stern. From this nicely brace position, ROLL the kayak beneath you like a log roller. This is not too hard because your BODY is paddle floated not the yak. You just scramble it over, leaning to the inside all the time. Now do recovery 3C.

Or start out as in 3A before but from the stern and roll the yak beneath you. Then perform recovery 3B.


a/buy a paddle float now

b/the pfd park is simple, quick and cheap cheap cheap

c/the pfd park allows you a simple realistic method of getting home w/ one hand. In many weather/sea conditions

d/the pfd park allows a simple method of one hand bracing or sculling on either side.

e/the pfd park allows a secure method of bracing while sick and being towed. Esp if paddle float attached to both blades

f/ the pfd park offers possibly a last resort paddle float refuge if all else fails. I'tll get your core mostly out of the water in a fairly well braced and easily performed position.

g/the pfd park offers 3 or 4 possibly achievable recoveries.


ps - so fbc, thanks for getting the ball rolling.

Messages In This Thread

Pfd: park, oarlock and rescues - reality
More thoughts - virtual
Modified Paddle leash Rescue