Mainly kayaking photographs taken on the Isle of Man and beyond.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Isle of Man Kayaking - Swimming Alone!

Whilst paddling from Niarbyl to Port Erin and back yesterday, I heard a story. It struck a chord. A scenario I've played out in my own mind many times came into reality. It happened to someone else, but as someone who likes to paddle on his own on occasion, and who also likes to push his luck sometimes, it could have been me.
A paddler (no names) set off from Douglas Beach, Isle of Man across the harbour and continued south beneath Douglas Head. The kayaker had six months of paddling experience, could role but not every time. He was not skilled at re-entering his kayak and had no flares or VHF. He was dressed in a dry cag and paddling trousers. It is more usual than not for there to be a tidal race along much of that coastline and this day was no exception. There was a south westerly force 5 against tide. I paddled through there myself that day and it was surfable.
The lone paddler entered the race with the flow. The sea just feels a bit rough when you are with the flow of a race and his confidence built. Time for some surfing fun. Having spun around suddenly the tidal race felt a little less secure. The inevitable happened and over he went, his kayak having been pushed sideways by a following wave enhanced by wind and tide. A couple of attempts to role failed - time for a swim. Not to worry, the kayaker had a paddle float. Trouble is they're a bit tricky to use when you are still in a tidal race. Several attempts to re-enter failed and he felt that he possibly had two more attempts left in him before he was too tired and too cold to continue! Luckily, a fishing boat spotted him. He was rescued by the trawler and his kayak retrieved and towed back to Douglas. Unfortunately, during this process his paddle was lost!
I think that this chap was a extremely lucky. The Irish Sea in the Winter is a cold and unforgiving place. I did ask him if it was OK to write this post and he agreed as it is an important lesson to all of us. Don't paddle beyond your abilities, and preferably not alone. Wear a dry suite if you can and always have several means of communication with you e.g. mobile phone, flares and a VHF. This paddler did ensure that he was always in sight of fishing boats, and it was that one precaution which saved him.

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