I have practiced rolling with a sail (even managed some successfully!), solo re-entry and assisted re-entry and it really is not a big deal. However, practice scenarios are never that realistic so I recently took the opportunity to go for a short swim on the way back from a trip to...
I was looking through the crystal clear green water before I could even think of where the paddle might be (at the end of a leash actually). So I bailed out. The water temperature was only 7.5C but I was wearing a drysuit with thermal protection under it. Nonetheless, it was not the ideal location to go swimming at Easter and so I started the recovery process with the kayak upside down, I let off the sail uphaul and tilted the mast back. This released the tension in the sheet (which I did not bother to uncleat). If you try to gather the boom directly to the mast, the sail fills with water like a great sea anchor. Instead I grabbed the top of the mast and started gathering the top of the leach towards it. Once I had the batten top and the mast tip in my hand I continued to gather the leach down to the boom. I then rolled the sail up and retained it with its elastic securing strap on deck.
I then rolled the kayak onto its side to prepare for a re-entry roll but I noticed the Mike (who had been paddle sailing in close formation) had dropped his sail and was preparing for an assisted re-entry. I righted the kayak then went to the stern and acted as a sea anchor so that my kayak blew away from me.
So a capsize when paddle sailing is nothing to be bothered about. There are a number of lessons:
- It is very easy to to get separated while paddle sailing so stay close, preferably in a line abreast.
- Agree a working channel before the trip. We all had our VHFs on channels 16/72 dual watch and if necessary I could have called Mike or Phil on channel 72.
- Although it was a sunny spring day, the water in the Firth of Cl;yde is at its coldest (7.5) in April. I was wearing a Kokatat Expedition dry suit with Fourth Element Xerotherm insulation under it. I did not get cold but if I had, I carried pogies and a neoprene hood in my forward day hatch.
- I did not lose anything. My specs had a retaining loop and my hat had a chin strap. My 5D Mk3 camera remained bone dry in its deck mounted Ortlieb Aquacam large camera bag.
- When in the water, don't bother trying to release the sheet, it will loosen automatically when the uphaul is uncleated. I like cleats without a fairlead like this:
- When in the water don't attempt to fold the boom directly to the mast, it will catch a lot of heavy water, gather the leach gradually from the mast tip to the batten then the boom.
- Otherwise it is a standard T recovery apart from the person re-entering going to the stern of his/her boat and being proactive in manouvering his/her kayak. (At the recent symposium I observed a number of assisted re-entries and was surprised by the number of people who make a beeline for the "rescuer's" bow then hang on to it as if they were copulating with it. This is neither a pretty sight nor a particularly effective strategy for a rapid re-entry!)
- We have practiced re-entries, otherwise it may have taken longer.
- Anyone can do this. I am in my seventh decade and until a month ago was laid up for seven months after major knee and ankle surgery, so I am hardly an athlete.
- The bottom line is, do not let fear of a capsize put you off paddle sailing. With a couple of minor modifications, standard kayak re-entry methods work just fine.
- In practice, when paddle sailing (at least for those of you who keep a hold of your paddle), the extra speed generates a huge amount of lift from a low brace and so you are very unlikely to capsize!
Have fun :o)