Hello on line friends. As I think about the various subjects often discussed on this board and my recent trip to the central B.C. coast there are many cross-overs. Two April's ago I paddled from LaConner Wa. to Port Hardy area on North Vancouver Is. Went solo on the worst spring in some 40 years. This May was to be my second leg from Hardy to Bella Bella, or Rupert, depending on conditions. A long time friend of mine from the skiing and climbing world asked if he could join me. He's recovering from a very nasty fall (off a roof!)and is quite out of shape as a result, but functional. His out of shape is strong relatively speaking. He has paddled a lot in Alaska etc., and has been well trained in Rescues etc., though he certainly is not an advanced kayaker and cannot roll. Given my history with him I felt comfortable training on the go so to speak, and rented a Mariner II from Gronseth for the month for him.
FIRST MISTAKE!! To me this is a very stable kayak, and one which could fit my bigger friend easily, and all his gear, yet still be efficient in the water. Turns out it was FAR more tippy than anything he'd paddled before.
Without boring all with lots of detail I will say that this trip ended it's northern progress shortly after our crossing to the mainland side of B.C. As time went on my friend became more comfortable, but never comfy enough. On one crossing we had 12 ft. rollers with current and about 15 knots wind. This absolutely terrified him like nothing in climbing ever has!! And this is a world caliber alpinist with sick hard big routes under him ... Cassin Ridge etc.
So this comment was significant. I taught him to roll in a lesson, but this did not eliminate his fear, and he was very reluctant to practice. In fact the trip deteriorated to me solo paddling on all but the calmest days while he stayed in camp and read, hung out. Things came to a head when he finally admitted just how terrified he was of sea kayaking in this environment. Aso Grizzly's scare the hell out of him, and they were around..one a quarter mile from camp. As I assesed things I convinced myself that it would be foolish to try and get him back via another crossing, so I arranged for a big boat to haul us back to Hardy.
Brian's thoughts below on how dangerous this sport can be are right on I think.
It's hugely dangerous at times, and frankly at the upper levels I think only suited to highly skilled, very fit people. My friends athletic skills and years of managing fear disguised his true terror to even me, an experienced guide. I blew it as well, as I viewed him very differently than I would ever have viewed a customer, and as such proceeded to really scare the hell out of a friend so much so that I doubt he'll ever sea kayak again. I feel bad about that.
Another thing we discussed was the rescue scenario. In truly big water a self rescue other than a roll, or re-enter and roll, seems unlikely. Solo paddle float outrigger would be a joke at best. An assisted rescue works very well, but here's the problem....they will be back in the very conditions that flipped them, only now with even more terror....they will likely go right back over. Let's assume you raft up with them and drift....where?...into the cliffs? Many coastlines have no landing spot for miles. Sooo what about sponsons? Sure extra support, but now the boat is too cumbersome to make headway in the conditions?
Bottom line is that these types of conditions allow for little error, and I overestimated my friends abilities, as did he. What is comfortable to me was a life or death battle to him. Had he flipped, as he repeatedly came close to doing, I'm certain I would have had him back in very quickly as we practiced, but then what? In reality I'd have had to raft with him and drift south till we could sneak in somewhere, all the while talking with the coast guard via VHF.
BTW I talked with the Coast Guard a few times to get weather updates as the repeaters were down and thus no weather reports. I never gave my license numbers, and thry didn't care at all. In fact very helpful, as were all the folks we met at various salmon farms etc.
So I re-learned many things here. 1. In years of guiding climbing ,kayaking, etc., I've never lost a customer, or had a serious injury. I simply let my guard down and made assumptions. 2. Rescues are one thing, but then what? As our guide friend below shared his story of the woman who hurt her knee illustrates, the fun has just begun. 3. Terrified people will likely react very panicky. 4. Anyone doing any sort of exposed coastal paddling shouls have a truly second nature roll - not a so so, practice here and there roll, but a roll or die roll. That sounds tough, but folks I think in some situations it can amount to that. 5. Even with dry suits etc., you can chill to the core instantly as we did on one particular break ashore. 38 degrees and raining and blowing. INSTANT TOTAL TO THE CORE CHILL! Soo how long would one last once back aboard their kayak after a capsize in those weather conditions even wearing a dry suit? Not long. 6. You can easily pack for a month in a Romany 16 and live in style. 7. A couple of good tarps are the most important camp item to carry 8. No matter how carefully you plan around current, tide, weather, time of day etc., sooner or later the sea will test you. This is why we do thousands of rolls each year and practice skills. 9. Going alone is not such a bad idea, and I will likely return alone for future trips of this nature ... Just some thoughts that I thought some of you might get something out of. Take care MH BTW...gorgeous country..some of the lagoons off of the mainland coast are spectacular! Going back in Sept., for a week.