Are canoists the new divers?

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Nick
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Are canoists the new divers?

Postby Nick » Tue May 10, 2011 11:38 am

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A canoeist has been found dead in the water on Sunday off Eigg. (Story here). Those of us on the Chentleman's Cruise will recall that one of the incidents the Oban lifeboat was involved in on the Saturday involved canoeists. We see them every time we are out now, and in recent years have regularly landed on 'uninhabited' islands only to find a bunch of kayakers ashore.

It is the ultimate low-cost way of exploring remote coastlines, but it does seem to be a very high-risk sport - or is it just a lack of training and people pushing themselves beyond their abilities?
- Nick 8)

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Re: Are canoists the new divers?

Postby Gardenshed » Tue May 10, 2011 2:33 pm

As it is difficult to assess exactly how many kayak canoe trips there are in any time period, so it is difficult to assess just how risky the sport is. My view is that it is the latter of your comments ("or is it just a lack of training and people pushing themselves beyond their abilities?")

Caught out in changing conditions, lack of experience coupled with a relatively low cost of entry easy access by car to remote locations and perhaps limited knowledge of tide flows etc. Good quality thermals, breathable drysuits etc give the false sense of security and protection. I've no wish to restrict or limit their activities, I see the growth of the sport as very positive, however if there are too many accidents, there will be a backlash that may impact all leisure watersports users (lisencing, registration, restricted shore access etc).
His lordship is more qualified to comment

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Re: Are canoists the new divers?

Postby Arghiro » Tue May 10, 2011 2:38 pm

A kayak is an extremely seaworthy craft - if you are skillfull enough to roll & self-rescue & are properly clothed. There are guidelines about going in pairs (X-rescues are simpler to do than self-rescue) and about wearing suitable clothing (wetsuits are not comfortable to paddle long distance in) and using bouyancy aids rather than lifejackets.

I think people underestimate how tiring it can be to deal with a head wind and/ or tide, or to cope with quartering seas that constantly turn your craft off course. It is possible that people also assume that one can easily land anywhere - but cliffs & rocks are still a hazard. A glance at a map when accustomed to driving speeds can make an island a mile off shore look really near. It's a nice day, what could possibly go wrong . . .

A decent seaboat will set you back about 200-250 quid secondhand, add the essential extras and equip two people (say a couple) and you are well beyond the cost of the average E-bay Navy speedboat or dinghy.

But you can get a cheapo boat for about 25 quid that is unsuitable for sea use & just go anyway - that may well be the issue. Also inflatable kayaks are becoming increasingly popular & are almost unuseable in a typical sea/ wind state. We paddle & play in the sea, it is associated with happy holiday memories, it is "mostly harmless" isn't it? !!!

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Re: Are canoists the new divers?

Postby Alcyone » Tue May 10, 2011 6:24 pm

We were in a pub in Easdale a few years back, (I think they had a micro brewery). We had a meal there, in a room looking out across the sea. We hadn't dived for 2 days because of storms, and, when you've towed a boat to Scotland from Wales, you'll dive almost any conditions.

The conditions were horrendous, and I'll never forget seeing three of those long sea kayaks setting out from the harbour. God knows where they were going, or what happened to them.

Having said that, I'm not a fan of singling out one section of the boating community as 'idiots'. I've seen idiots in Yachts, mobos, Dive Ribs, etc etc.

I might make an exception for jet skiers......

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Re: Are canoists the new divers?

Postby Arghiro » Tue May 10, 2011 9:26 pm

3 proper sea kayaks setting out in bad weather almost certainly know what they are doing. Don't forget these craft are based on a design developed over 1000 years by Eskimoes harpooning seals & fishing in the Arctic. As I said earlier, they are VERY seaworthy boats - provide the paddler has the skills & knowledge needed.

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Re: Are canoists the new divers?

Postby Alcyone » Wed May 11, 2011 10:53 am

I think that's a fair point. It does assume, as you say, that they know what they are doing.

I guess my concern was skewed by my experience of some years back, when my friend, coxswain of the local lifeboat, set out at midnight to rescue two canoeists who'd gone off to the bitches in Ramsey sound in similar conditions. They saved one, but sadly found the body of the other.

Having very little experience of kayaking myself, all it's really fair to say is that I would not have attempted it. That doesn't mean that others, with proper experience, should not, as you rightly point out.

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Re: Are canoists the new divers?

Postby MrMcP » Wed May 11, 2011 12:51 pm

Having kayaked for years, I'd generally say that most people that set off on the west coast are usually well equipped, experienced and know their stuff. Certainly I've never met anyone on the water that was horribly ill-equipped. Those that pick up a canoe for £25 and need recued are usually in the same league as those that need recovered in their supermarket dinghy after setting off across the bay. Those that regularly kayak tend to be semi-fanatical about it, and will not only be strong independent paddlers, but will tend to explore with like-minded and similarly experienced friends. However, it is absolutely true that a sudden turn in the weather will be much harder to endure in a small craft which by its nature leaves you more exposed, no matter how seaworthy the vessel is. And one weakness I've both seen and experienced is that if you need to make a run for safety then your options can be limited by prevailing tide and wind combined with limited landing opportunities, which may force difficult conditions on those involved.

I've paddled the Bitches at St Davids many times, usually at full springs (you go there to enjoy freestyle whitewater kayaking, so springs provide the best conditions). The ebb tides under Connel Bridge provide similar fun and games. On no occasion have I seen novices there, since any novice would struggle with the mile-long paddle into the site in the first place. Indications of how competent those that go there generally are (and ignore for a moment whether you approve of the antics I'm about to describe) would include the regular attempts to jump onto the main standing wave, get into a standing position while surfing your kayak, pull out the three balls from your pocket and start juggling without falling in..... Those that fail (most people) then need to be able to catch up with their drifting boat, get back into it while upside down, and roll it back upright without paddles and half full of water. These are very, very skilled individuals. Most incidents I'm aware of are first-timers who expend far too much energy on the waves themselves and don't leave enough juice in the tank to safely clear the whirlpools at Horse Rock on the ferry-glide home.

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Re: Are canoists the new divers?

Postby Alcyone » Wed May 11, 2011 4:17 pm

Good to hear someone who knows Ramsey Sound. There are 57 recorded shipwrecks in there, you know, and a lifeboat was lost on the biitches, with all her crew.

I've never dived the Bitches, but My missus has been through them, not by design.......

I've dived Horse rock, many times. Both My missus and my dive buddy have been caught there at the start of the North going tide. My mate was swept downwards to nearly 30 metres three times before escaping and my missus (who surfaced in tears) twice.

I've fancied diving Connel too, but never managed it. Might be beyond me now.......

I'm hoping to sail the Sound for the first time shortly, but it will be slack water and light winds, first time. I doubt I'll ever kayak it.

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Re: Are canoists the new divers?

Postby Arghiro » Wed May 11, 2011 10:30 pm

It says a lot doesn't it - you go to these places (the Swellies is another one) to sail or dive & carefully pick slack water (or near as damn it). I have sailed the Connel Falls & the Swellies & Bardsey Sound at slack. But in a kayak, you choose to visit them at times of max flow. :thumbsup:

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Re: Are canoists the new divers?

Postby Orla » Thu May 12, 2011 12:18 pm

Sorry about the size of the post, one of my favourite subjects, got a bit carried away....

The sea kayak is probably one of the most sea worthy vessels around, when in the right hands…

When I started out over 30 years ago, there were very few of us, driving from Edinburgh up to the summer isles we would never sea another kayak on the roof of a car. Today things are very different, they are everywhere, and the sport has become big business. We now have shops all over the country that specialise in sea kayaking only.

Some of the trips that have been done in them are amazing. But you have to be very fit and strong to do them, and understand tides and weather systems.

One of the big problems I see nowadays are the light weight inflatable kayaks, when you sit in them they become top heavy and want to turn over, and the windage is ridiculous, fine for a summer day with no wind in a garden pond, I seen one last year in Loch Ness (very gusty Conditions) and it was not long till a wee orange boat was heading out to get him.

My main expedition Kayak is 21 feet long cost £1200 25 years ago and is pretty much unsinkable, when fully loaded for a long trip it does not want to fall over, most of the weight is underwater, it is kitted out with cockpit bilge pump, external stainless steel rudder, and deck mounted compass. In thousands of miles of kayaking, solo and with friends I have never capsized (unintentionally).
One of my concerns has always been people looking on from land and calling the coast guard, thinking we were in trouble. If I was doing a particularly big trip I would keep in touch with the coast guard and inform them now and again on progress.

But as with everything else when a sport becomes popular, good paddlers make it look easy, so people who shouldn’t get involved do, and that’s when accidents start to happen. No different to sailing, the local papers here have regular articles of yachts in trouble, most I bet down to owner’s lack of knowledge and competency.

Over the years of paddling my lower back and shoulders have suffered almost to the point where I can’t sit in a canoe for more than a few hours at a time. So 5 years ago I started looking for a giant canoe, with sails, and that’s exactly what I have got. Now I can carry on exploring remote areas, while living aboard with my wife to share the sights and sails to do the hard work.

Good reads here from my friend & kayaking companion for many years:-
Blazing Paddles (solo round Scotland) by Brian Wilson.
Dances with Waves (solo round Ireland) by Brian Wilson.

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Re: Are canoists the new divers?

Postby Alcyone » Thu May 12, 2011 3:27 pm

lordmacdonald wrote:But as with everything else when a sport becomes popular, good paddlers make it look easy, so people who shouldn’t get involved do, and that’s when accidents start to happen. No different to sailing, the local papers here have regular articles of yachts in trouble, most I bet down to owner’s lack of knowledge and competency.




I've noticed that with diving, too. What was, when I started 20 odd years back, a sport for the dedicated, has become one of the must do sports for outdoor types, along with kayaking, climbing, wind surfing and mountain biking.

It took me many years to become what I consider to be 'competent' at Scuba, and I've now logged over 1300 dives. I've been sailing 3 years and still consider myself very much a learner.

So, when I see a car in West Wales with a Kayak, wind surf board and mountain bike on the roof and scuba and climbing gear in the boot, it makes me wonder how much time these folk have to master these sports.

As long as they don't get themselves into trouble, of course, they don't have to master them.

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Re: Are canoists the new divers?

Postby Orla » Thu May 12, 2011 8:41 pm

Yip i agree entirely, there used to be a 3 year collage course just outside Edinburgh, maybe its still going I dont know.
At the end of the 3 years the student came out with Instructors qualifications in everything, from advanced Sea Kayaking Climbing, mountaineering, caving, skiing, navigation, you name it they had it, but they had no expeiriance in any of them.
Fast track courses have been the cause of dumbing down skills that take years to master.......


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