Sea Skills vs Judgement

Posted by Kurt Maurer on Mar 23, 2005

I'm bumping this up from an older thread because I want everybody to see it. I was a bit flip about this incident yesterday (when it occurred), but the more I think on it, the scarier it becomes!

Mac was evidently impressed by my performance - as was I!!! - and so said: "You are now in the advanced ranks - alongside Derick Hutchinson and other kayak gods."

(I had written about rescuing myself from a wet-exit situation, a mile offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, by reentering my overturned kayak upside-down, then rolling back upright, pumping my cockpit dry, and reattaching my sprayskirt. Conditions? Wx cavu (a *beautiful* day!), winds 25 nnw, gusting to 35 (blowing offshore), air temp mid 70's, water temp high 60's, surf breaking at 3 to 4 feet, very confused, offshore wave conditions 3 to 4 feet with steady rolling ground swell.)

Here are the facts of the case: I learned to roll last spring, and spent all summmer joyously honing my sea kayaking skills. But as well as I progressed, NONE of it made me an EXPERIENCED paddler!!! It made me a dangerous one, in fact, since my skills suddenly exceeded my experience level. Repeat: My skills exceed my experience!

Looking back on it a day later, here is what I now see... Three strikes...

Strike One: I let an inexperienced buddy talk me into going out in conditions I didn't particularly like, because Buddy was so exceedingly enthused to get his first homemade sea kayak out in the rough stuff. The surf was kinda high, and I hadn't done any rolls or rescues since last fall. I should have prepared myself to my complete satisfaction, in advance, before venturing offshore.

Gills work well to extract oxygen from water, but lungs perform mighty poorly in the element.

Second mistake: Buddy is, as yet, of an insufficient kayaking skill level to be of any meaningful help to anyone in distress, including himself, in conditions such as herein stated. I may as well have been solo, for all practical purposes. (THANK GOD it wasn't HE who capsized!!!)

Third mistake: All my training was done in my Cormorant. This day I was paddling my new Guillemot; an unfamiliar boat. If you have ever read "Deep Trouble", this is a common thread in post-mortem reports...

Well, we had a perfect blast paddling out off the Galveston beachfront yesterday. Thank goodness. We came within an ace of being headlines in the Galveston Daily News. Okay, perhaps I be a little melodramatic, but hey, once again, water is a mighty unforgiving element to us land critters.

Epilogue: I am at once proud and ashamed to make this report. In any case, I will say it is pure JOY to be in possession of these kinds of seafaring skills! I never would have thought, not in a million years, that I would learn to Eskimo roll a kayak when I built my Pair O' Mill Creek 13s three years ago... But when I launched the Squeedunk Cormorant last year, it was obviously a case of either learn some serious yakin' stuff, or put a match to the damned thing. At about the same time, I was so fortunate as to witness a prime demonstration of competent persons performing genuine sea kayak handling... and it looked like FUN. So I learned it. It was, and is, too!

And, it's a life saver. Thank you for letting me gush. I wanted to type this all out perhaps even more for my own self, than for your benefit. Hey, my ego is way too big by now, and I just cannot stand the thought of being a mere drowning statistic. I'm shooting for higher things.

Cheers, Kurt