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PaddleWise Discussion on Folding Kayak Rescues

The following discussion occurred on the PaddleWise mailing list. All original comments are presented in their entirety. Some quoting of previous posts copied into subsequent replies are excluded from those replies to improve readability and reduce redundancy. Full archives may be retrieved by PaddleWise members from the PaddleWise digest by sending a message to with the word "index" included in the body of the message. These posts may not be reproduced or redistributed without the author's permission.

From: "cholst"
Subject: [Paddlewise] Folding kayak rescues
Date: Thu, 17 May 2001 18:25:59 GMT

As a trip leader, I would like advice on how to integrate folding kayaks 
with hardshells on group trips -- techniques, rescues, things to look out 
for, etc. Our club, Inland Sea Kayakers (, 
has a policy that anyone who wants to go on an open water trip, such as on 
Lake Superior, must demonstrate beforehand that he or she can do both a solo 
rescue and assisted rescues, preferably both as a rescuer and a rescuee. Not 
being familiar with the various foldables, I don't know what to ask of 
potential trip members with foldables in the way of rescue techniques, 
particularly in the matter of boat-to-boat rescues (soft shell rescuing a 
hard shell and vice-versa). Normal kayak instruction covers only hardshell 
rescues. So far we have a Klepper Aerius and a short Folbot in the club. The 
Klepper is frequently paddled solo, the Folbot always is. I don't think 
either owner has ever had any instruction in rescue techniques specific to 
their boats, though both are willing and eager to learn.

Chuck Holst 

From: [Ralph C. Hoehn] Date: Thu, 17 May 2001 15:36:44 EDT Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] Folding kayak rescues Chuck, If the Aerius to which you refer is a double (Aerius II), then very little technique is required in most rescue situations (but practice is, of course, no less than prudent in any case!!): a) the boat is unlikely to capsize in the first place b) a swimmer will have little trouble in just climbing back in over the side -- in really terrible conditions climbing back in over the bow or stern (beware of rudder, if fitted) may be more appropriate, for one thing because it'll turn the boat into the wind / waves c) a self rescue in a double folder like the Aerius II is a cinch if there is already a crew of two, one paddler steadies while the other climbs in; if the boat is paddled solo, then a steadying hand by another paddler might be nice From your description below, the Folbot in question is a single. Most Folbot models are particularly stable and again very little assistance should be required for a reentry. In both cases bailing the boat out is easy due to the relatively large open cockpit and stability of the hull shape. Most important: Make sure that there is sufficient floatation in the boats since there are no bulkheads. It is good practice to fill as much of the boat as possible if conditions are so severe that even a folding boat is at all likely to capsize. The full length sponsons on most folding boats are a good start, but it is important to reduce the area of free water surface sloshing around in the wide open spaces of the hull to increase stability of a partially flooded boat in waves. (My only involuntary capsize in a folder in 30 years occurred in surf in a double when we did not heed my own advice about floatation AND did not bother to pump the bilges, which were partially filled from the trip out: Water pooled in the bow and "downslope" side of the boat in a breaker and the ensuing broach became uncontrollable.) Draining other boats by dragging them over the deck of a folder is the only thing that I can think of that would have to be approached with some forethought and care: Drain the boat as much as possible before dragging it out of the water and try to position the second boat in such a way that it rests over a frame (sometimes termed rib or cross-frame) to avoid excessive loads on the central deck stringer. Folders are ideal rescue vehicles to assist other kayaks due to their stability. There are exceptions to the above: Feathercraft Khatsalanos behave and perform very much like most so-called hard shell seakayaks and then the same rules apply as for the latter, of course. Chuck, I would suggest that you put in a (VERY) wet mixed practice session with the folders and the hard shells and just play through different scenarios. Post pictures!! :-))) The joining of forces of folders and non-folders sounds like a great set-up and is a recipe for fun and safe trips. Best regards, Ralph Ralph C. Hoehn
Date: Fri, 18 May 2001 15:35:25 +1000 From: PJ Rattenbury Subject: [Paddlewise] Folding Kayak Rescues I reply: As a Klepper paddler who regularly and almost exclusively keeps company with the hardshell brigade I would suggest the following points: # A folding kayaker can rescue herself/himself as efficiently as a hardshell operator who presumably has a reliable roll. This only occurs if the folding kayaker regularly practices self rescue techniques. If they are not willing to demonstrate this, I would not paddle with them. # This is because the inherent stability of the folding kayaks you mention, means their paddlers may NOT regularly practice self rescue. # A reasonably skilled folding kayaker can be an asset on a trip. Her/his kayak makes a relatively stable platform on which to base assisted rescues. If you run to a buddy system in your club on the water, it would pay to have the foldable/hardshell buddies practice assisted rescues. Their boats can have quite disparate behavior upside down, and/or partially waterlogged. # Amen to the advice on reducing volume, either with gear, or floatation bags. # You seem to indicate a double Klepper is paddled solo. That's a lot of kayak to manoeuvre in a blow, even for a strong paddler. I would be reluctant as a trip leader to let that one through. # If the foldables don't carry electric pumps, [ actually even if they do!] I would personally check on the bail-out equipment of the foldables. Remember, even if they carry floatation bags and gear, these kayaks can still ship an awful lot of water without a seasock. # I would be checking on what sort of spraydeck/skirt arrangement they have, not only for seaworthiness, but also for protection from hypothermia. Big open cockpits can result in cold kayakers, particularly in cold rain. [ In my neck of the woods, sunburn to the legs is a worry.] # As far as group spread goes, foldables are not necessarily the slow coaches, so in my club at least, there are no on-the-water instructions peculiar to folding kayakers. # If your foldables are going to be assembled at put-ins, it might be helpful for group harmony to suggest their owners arrive early enough to get their boat ready, especially on day trips. Again, this depends on the skill of the folding kayaker , ie, their assembly times. # In the hands of folks who know their boats and skills, I believe foldables have a significant degree of survivability. I speak for the Klepper, which I know. I would describe this as 'built-in redundancy'. The only caveat is big surf, but I guess you get short, steep, breaking and dumping seas where you are. Hopes this helps! Peter Rattenbury, Wollongong, Australia.
Date: Sat, 19 May 2001 13:00:47 +1000 From: PJ Rattenbury Subject: [Paddlewise] Foldable Rescues Hi Ralph H : I have no particular 'downunder' techniques at self rescue. My practice is invariably the 'cowboy' rescue. I like its simplicity! No fussing with paddlefloat or stirrup set ups. The boat flips upright easily, even unloaded. I can be back in the boat literally in seconds [ with a little boost of adrenalin!] I am 56 years old, by the way, no spring chicken, but with a healthy respect for the sea which comes from 45 years plus mucking about in various boats. The key is to practice in varying weather and sea conditions and with varying loads. In a decent sort of sea, which presumably capsizes you in the first place, the boat is quite a different beast, as you know! In these realistic conditions, the Klepper is usually half swamped, with seas washing into the boat. Sprayskirt on, electric pump on, both hands engaged in paddling into the sea. I have a 800gph pump which provides the capacity needed for a large volume boat. I carry a one gallon collapsible bucket, and the standard vertically operated handpump as backup. I spoke about inbuilt redundancy before. I also practice paddling the boat totally swamped. This is, the Klepper is manageable [except in surf] fully 'waterlogged', which has earned it U-boat status in my club! This implies integrity of sponsons [ the ones that come with the boat!] and floatation bags. This is a fun thing to do, unless it is freezing! and you learn what it is like to paddle a boat with about six hundred pounds of water moving along with you! Interestingly, I have found the Klepper to be as stable UPSIDE down, as right side up! Again, useful knowledge in survival. May be other boats have similar characteristics. There is a helluva difference between practising rescue techniques, be they a roll up, re-enter and roll, or cowboy , in a decent sort of sea state, and in the swimming pool like conditions I see lots of folks do. I also carry surf fins, in the event of having to swim the boat in through surf, and I tether myself to the boat when paddling and/or sailing solo. So dominant is hardshell technique that in my club at least, one is NOT qualified as a sea going kayaker unless one can demonstrate a reliable roll. This implies a boat of Inuit heritage, ie designed to roll. I just like the idea of SURVIVING, I don't care how! Just a quick word on group rescue. The flavor of the month here is for the rescuer to help right the rescuee's boat; have the rescuee hold on to her/his boat near the cockpit, rescuer manoevre's her/his boat alongside, facing the rescuee, and the rescuee then uses the buoyancy/stability of both boats to swing herself/himself back into her/his cockpit. I do notice a strange reluctance among hardshell kayakers to engage in realistic gelcoat-crunching across the deck T rescues and the like! Hope you find the above interesting. That's my two cents worth. Regards PeterR
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