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Another Rescue

The cowgirl found herself involved in another rescue today, this one in the middle of the Hudson, with some additional challenges.

I led a group of five people south to Mitsuwa, an asian supermarket in Fort Lee. It was my first time paddling this distance with this group, and overall, it was a good trip, even including this minor mishap.

We were coming south from Inwood, and had almost completed crossing the Hudson below the GWB. We were at about 155th street based on the Manhattan grid. Suddenly, I heard one of our whistles blow. I turned around and one of our paddlers was in the water.

She was OK. She managed to hold on to her boat and her paddle. After some maneuvering, we got lined up to pull her boat out and dump the water from it.

The problem was, she was in a boat that had no bulkheads. A typical sea kayak has watertight walls in front of your feet and behind your seat, meaning that as long as the hatches stay closed, only about a third of the boat will fill with water. Her boat was a hand-crafted skin-on-frame boat – a wooden frame with a waterproof cloth sewed on. The entire boat filled with water.

This made the boat heavier and harder to lift out of the water. Even after we dumped it, there was still plenty left in it. On top of that, conditions were such that more water came in once we put it back in. We actually had to get her back out of the boat after the first time we got her in, to try and get the water out.

We did do that though. As rescues go, this took longer than usual, but it did work out. She was able to paddle farther on – against wind and current – and suffered no further mishap on the way out or on the way back.

It did push my knowledge base a bit. I’ve never dealt with one of these boats, and now I’ve got a better idea of what to do. First of all, it takes much more effort and time to drain. Second, the boat needs float bags. We were lucky this one didn’t completely sink – the bags were only partially inflated.

Published in 2012 Backpaddle ICC Inwood Inwood Canoe Club

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