By Walt Lariscy
An important thing to consider when planning an outing on public waters is your personal safety. There are many inherent risks involved with getting out in a small plastic boat where there are larger power boats operating.
One way to stay safe is to plan your trips at low-traffic times. Some of the best fishing I’ve done is at first light before everyone else has had his or her morning coffee. You can also plan your outings during the week, when others are working and boat traffic is reduced. Kayakers must become accustomed to the occasional wake from other boats. This is just a fact we have to accept when using the same waters as powered craft. These wakes can sometimes catch us by surprise, swamp our crafts and even throw us into the drink. I have seen experienced kayakers roll their kayaks unexpectedly, only to say, “I never thought that would happen to me.” If you are going to be in water deeper than 4 feet, you need to be proficient at righting your kayak and re-entering it.
A kayak loaded with fishing gear is not easy to roll back over without using the right technique and may be even harder to get back into depending on your strength and skill.
The easiest way to right a loaded sit-on-top kayak is to kick up and lay your body across the hull so your abdomen is resting on the underside of the hull with your legs in the water. Then, reach out and grab the opposite side of the kayak and pull it toward you as you drop back into the water. Believe it or not, this does take some practice.
Once you master this skill, you’ll need to get back into the righted kayak. To do this, you will once again kick up as hard as possible and get your belly over the cockpit area, basically lying across your kayak. Be careful at this stage, and take your time so you do not re-roll the kayak. From here, it is just a matter of rotating your hips until your butt is in the kayak, and then you can sit up and swing your legs into the boat.
It may sound simple, but it takes practice, and good technique can be a lifesaver, especially during the winter months when hypothermia can set in quickly or in the open ocean where you’re not at the top of the food chain. My motto has always been to prepare for the worst and live to tell your tale.
Good luck. May your kayak and lines stay wet and your butt stay dry.