Wet Exit Alternative: The Rat Swim
Of all the rescue moves sea kayakers regularly practice, perhaps none is more better known than the T rescue.
In that well known sea kayaking rescue, immediately a paddler capsizes he pops the sprayskirt, wet exits and dogp addles to the surface. Next, with the assistance of a second sea kayaker he empties his flooded ase kayak by lifting the bow, righting the kayak, and crawling back into the cockpit by way of a stirrup, scoop, self hoist or paddle float.
Then – at least in theory – once the swimmer has scrambled back into the cockpit he snugs the sprayskirt on and off everybody goes, nothing to now do but reassemble the confidence a group needs to paddle in a pod weakened by a capsize recovery (a phenomenon known as capsize virus, where one capsize tends to lead to more).
Problem is, the sea kayaking T rescue is in many ways cumbersome, awkward, and has many drawbacks. For one, there’s a fair amount of drifting around and muscling of the capsized sea kayak. Second is the truth of exposure: first the kayaker has to wet, exiting the sea kayak and treading water, exposing ones self to the water from head to toe.
Third, as a swimmer, you have to separate yourself from your most significant source of flotation: the sea kayak itself.
Here’s an alternative: Next time you capsize and decide or discover you can’t roll, don’t wet exit. Instead, remain in the sea kayak, sprayskirt attached, and dog paddle your head to the surface. Use the rat swim to breathe and relax, set yourself up for another roll, or wait for another sea kayaker to help you execute the faster, less complex, much simpler bow rescue.
Here’s how to learn the rat swim rescue.
First, brace on both sides of your sea kayak to discover which is your onside, or the side on which your brace feels strongest and most supportive. If you are like most, starboard (the right side of the sea kayak) is your onside. Capsize towards your strong side (righties to starboard, lefties to port). By capsizing to your onside, you’ll be rat swimming with your better coordinated arm and shoulder.
Once you’ve capsized, remain underwater, face down, with your chest parallel to the water”s surface. Take a slow two or three count. Counting helps you relas, a key to the move. Now allow your body to go limp within the cockpit. Specifically, relax your hips.
To achieve this, remove both feet from the footpegs and allow your knees to knock in against each other within the cockpit. This lets you twist within the cockpit.
Now turn your body over within the cockpit, as if you are trying to kneel upon the inside of the starboard gunwale (port for lefties).You’ll find the position rolls your chest over and down, anbd your backside up, so that your torso lies parallel to the water’s surface.
A couple of easy dogpaddle strokes and you can calmly lift your head above the surface. Yet your lower body remains within the cockpit of the sea kayak, and you haven’t popped the sprayskirt. Your kayak will not fill with water. Now you can set-up for a roll or wait for another sea kayaker to offer you their bow for a bow rescue.
To read more about sea kayaking and kayak fishing, see the content-rich blogs Sea Kayaking Dot Net and NorthAmerican Kayak Fishing.