Catastrophic failures and other related issues

There's been some discussion on equipment failures in the other posts which brought to mind a bunch of questions that I've always wanted to ask other paddlers.

First, has anyone suffered some type of equipment failure or catastrophic failre while out in the open ocean?

Second if you did suffer some sort of failure, were you able to muster up a temporary fix to get back to shore?

Third, if so, what was the fix?

Fourth, does anybody carry safety equipment with them?

When I first started paddling, I looked into inflatable life preservers, flares, whistles, epirbs, marine radios, gps, extra paddles, cables and even swimming goggles but then quickly began to realize that all this stuff not only cost money, but also weighs the boat down by a considerable amount. Most of the other guys i paddle with never bring any of this stuff with them because it simply slows them down. If anything, they bring their slippers. I have yet to see news headlines which says, "Paddler Miraculously Saved by Rubber Zori" so I continue to carry a marine radio, gps, plastic whistle and string with me in my dry bag when I paddle. My thought has always been that the benefit still outweighs the weight gain. Sometimes if I go by myself, I'll bring an extra blade just in case I either lose the one I'm paddling with (as I did in some surf) or it breaks. This happened once to friend of mine during a Hawaii Kai run. Luckily, I decided to cruise that day and go trolling with a pole that was fixed to my iako with a PVC pipe and some bicycle tubing. We managed to jury-rig a PVC/paddle by sticking the broken ends of the paddle into the pvc pipe and by winding the rubber tube around the paddle and pvc. The fix worked great. I do ocasssionally, however, find myself ditching my safety equipment when I have to paddle with guys who I know will paddle balls-to-the wall.


Submitted by Snarfblat on Tue, 01/31/2006 - 1:50pm

For me its a leg rope and mobile phone in a w/p bag. Most new canoes have a certain degree of floatability. So if the canoe say breaks in half, at least i'm still attached to one part and can use the cell phone to call help.

Hope it never happens though.
Cheers Rambo

#1 Tue, 01/31/2006 - 2:04pm

I think the best thing that you can do is go out with other people....although it is hard to coordinate schedules with people all the time. If you're out by yourself the chances of someone hearing your whistle is minimal and a gps will only tell you where you are and not be any real help. The next best thing is a leash, in case you flip over or get knocked off your boat you probably don't want it floating away....And the last practical thing is an extra paddle, although they can be hard to rig up on some of the iakos that are out there now....Well, I hope this helps a little!!!

#2 Tue, 01/31/2006 - 2:42pm

I try to make it a rule to paddle with others. Sometimes, however, my paddling buddies are too busy or have already done a run which just leaves me. Some of the people I paddle with don't even look back until the run is over--too competitive I say.

If I bring a gps, its always with a marine radio. The gps will always be secondary to a radio.

Rigging up an extra paddle is actually quite easy once you get the hang of it. You do it the way the OC6 guys do it by strapping the paddle to your iako.

I think it helps to think about what you would do if you suffered from:

1) cable failure;
2) a leak in your ama/canoe;
3) a broken paddle or lost paddle;
4) the loss of an attachment point on the ama or the canoe.

What would you do to fix it? What would you use to fix it?

#3 Tue, 01/31/2006 - 9:49pm

Um, actually, I have been saved by a pair of Locals slippahs. Well, not me so much as my canoe. I was paddling one of Kai's Polaris canoes on a semi-windy day (okay, there was a small craft advisory and it was howling). I was with a couple of friends on an 8-mile training run. You know how it is, every once in a while those runs can be more competitive than a race. Well, I was surprised to find myself in the lead and there was no way I was giving it up, so I cut a corner a little too tightly and the water sucked up off the reef into the wave and I was tossed onto the reef. My friends watched (laughing, I might add) as my canoe bounced upside down across the reef. I had a leash on and went (literally) running across the reef screaming expletives trying to catch my boat before both of us were destroyed by the next wave. I sacrificed my feet and caught up with my canoe just in time to jump with it as the next wave hit. The backwash took us both off the reef. When I rolled the canoe over, the back bungie that was holding my slippahs was destroyed, my slippahs were gone, but there was only a small, superficial scratch on my canoe. A true testament to Kai's construction and the magic of a pair of size 12 rubber slippahs!

PS: I still recommend paddling with friends and taking a whistle and/or other safety gear. Personally, I still take my slippahs too.

#4 Tue, 01/31/2006 - 10:08pm

Funny, in Hawaii seems most people wear a leash, no lifejacket; in Cali the coast guard requires a life jacket tied to the boat, but no leash! What good does the life jacket tied to the canoe do you if the canoe has floated away? Of course as you pointed out there are risks to a leash. I once fell off a 2-man surfing a wave and got dragged underwater not long enough to drown me, but sure long enough to scare me. Lucky I am not so light that my drag didn't slow the boat down! lesson learned: the safety equipment that makes sense depends on conditions, where you are going, etc.

#5 Tue, 01/31/2006 - 10:46pm

I was paddling alone over a mile off shore from Ewa Beach on a huge day and got on a wave with at least a 10-12ft face when the white wash caught me from behind. Lost my paddle, the seat and the canoe was destroyed. I had to swim in while pushing the canoe in front of me. Took me over an hour to swim in but lucky for me the wind was blowing towards shore and the tide wasn't going out. Did I learn my lesson? Nope. Still go out alone and don't carry any safety gear.

#6 Tue, 01/31/2006 - 11:29pm

I paddle alone (especially in the winter on the East coast) and until February last year, I didn't even use a leash. A lazy huli, on a windy day changed that. It was warm out for Feb but the water was 35 and I don't wear rubber, as it is too restrictive. The kanu landed hull down and started accelerating off-shore, I threw the paddle after it and the sprint was on.

I use a leash everytime I go in the ocean now.
The stupid shall be punished.


#7 Wed, 02/01/2006 - 3:40am

Some things I do;
I never do long runs alone. When I can't find someone to go with I stay close to shore.If I go alone I always let someone know where I am going
I keep a length of rubber innertube wrapped around my iako. Those things can be used to jury rig all sorts of stuff.
If you insist on going alone bring a swim fin with you. Kind of bulky but it would help swimming.
Change your cables on a regular basis. It's not that hard to do.
Train hard. If you're one of the faster guys out there and you lose your boat there will be plenty of people coming up behind you to help you out. :)

#8 Wed, 02/01/2006 - 6:24am

Everyone of us needs to take into account, the what if's. I look at the weather, if it is big, I stay inside I may be called a wimp, but I hope to be with my s/o at the end of the day.. I do carry a fanny pack with water, whistle, cell phone in a pelican case. It does not weigh that much, I have atleast 2 pounds on my butt and around my waist.. You just never know. I don't turn my back on mother nature. It is nice to be compeative, but to sacrifice your life that is just stupid. I am going to get a OC Fuze made in China, and well I don't plan on going the first day around Mokapu, I will get to know the canoe. I will use some of the ideas you have all posted. Mahalo by the way. And I will enjoy myself and have fun.

#9 Wed, 02/01/2006 - 9:40am

I'm an uptight East Coaster who would rather not loose any fellow club members. Yldbill is right "the stupid shall be punished." We teach our paddlers that if you are going out alone there are some good safety procedures to follow:
Always wear your life jacket if the water temp plus air temp is less than 100 ...disregard if you live in Hawaii :-)
Wear a leash and carry a cell phone.
Leave a float plan (even verbal works) with a responsible friend. Time on and off the water, location and direction of paddle.
Give them a protocol if you haven't checked in by a certain time. My protocol is if I haven't checked in 1/2 hour after when I said I would return call me on my cell phone, if you can't reach me, then drive to my put in. If my car is still there contact a friend with a boat and come looking for me and if you still can't find me call the Coast Guard.
If might be macho to paddle with no safety gear or plan but it also might be your last paddle.

#10 Thu, 02/02/2006 - 11:17am

Damn all that just to go for a paddle? Might as well paddle in a bathtub :)

#11 Thu, 02/02/2006 - 5:10pm

Hey Hawaiian Paddler,

You are right about SELF RELIANCE. Even the strongest canoe, yacht or rather the Titanic. Shit happens in the ocean. Whatever you think will NOT happen actuall WILL HAPPEN. That's just life.

In my initial design sketches ALL our canoes had a POD for either instrumentation, Speedometer, GPS, Compass, radio and solar panel - all off the shelf components that can be assemble.

The POD is removable to put in a SURVIVAL pack instead OR a FISHING pack. We plan to do this stuff in 2007 when I have time to finish such development. Meanwhile I'm spending ALL my time dealing with extreme opinions.

Thanks and do keep the dialog going on this issue

#12 Thu, 02/02/2006 - 11:21pm

Grab your leash and your cell phone and call a friend on the way to your put hard is that? Of course a lot of folks do drown in their bathtubs so I suggest you take some precautions there as well ;-)
Definitely a lot of good ideas posted here on how to be safe. Thanks everyone.

#13 Fri, 02/03/2006 - 5:19am

My leash was crucial when my iako snapped in half. Used the leash to lash it together & many hours later managed to make it back in safely. That was a "good training" paddle. Having a partner or group is good, but you still need some problem-solving skills and/or extra tubing (or something) for towing, quick fixes, tournequet, etc. The cell phone would be good but only if it's in the case that you can dial and talk through (otherwise, you have to take it out and if you are floating in the water, um, it might not work). I think some tubing, an extra paddle, and friends (that don't mind keeping track of where you are) are probably the best safety equiment...

#14 Fri, 02/03/2006 - 8:55am

I've been chastised many times by friends and family for paddling alone and everyone here is absolutely correct. Boys and girls, paddle with a partner whenever possible. A friend of mine told me to take duct tape and that's another great idea. A small roll of duct tape will do miracles for emergency fixes. I think you can actually build a house wilth a roll of duct tape and some 2X4's.

#15 Fri, 02/03/2006 - 11:07am

I don't think you need the 2x4s...

#16 Fri, 02/03/2006 - 12:46pm

A lot of good advise here, and some not so good.

Certain safety equipment is required in ALL US Waters, not just CA.

Cost and weight are certainly factors. When I run into that objection, my answer is always "How much is your life worth?"

WEARING your PFD (Lifejacket) is the prefered method in terms of safety. Leash or no leash, your best protection is the PFD regardless of the water or air temps. There are PFD's designed for wear while paddling that cause minimall interference with your stroke.

Is your life worth a couple of hundred bucks and a little extra weight?

You can also check out this in the Resources section:

Skipper Rich

#17 Wed, 04/26/2006 - 4:23pm

A couple weeks ago on a Haleiwa run there were 5 of us. I was on a Stand Up Downwind board. When we got to Papailoa there was a east swell around solid 8' faces on the point. I opted to time it and go inside where you could squeak through a little deep spot on the point....

After getting through I heard a faint yell for help. I turned around and one of the guys was fighting to grab pieces of his borrowed Hurricane in the whitewater. The iakos pulled right out but the worn out collars were still in the boat. Luckily I had a Hurricane before so I knew how to put it back together.... After battling that for awhile we got him going again...

Outside Puena Pt, his boat fell apart again! We put it back together and he made it to shore... Being it wasn't his boat, if he were alone there is NO WAY he could of got it back together on his own.... I think the swim fin is a darn good idea if you go alone.... Also the leash is a MUST!

#18 Wed, 04/26/2006 - 6:45pm

just a note on lifejackets---
i'm sure some people may disagree-- and i'm not trying to say they are no good.. just a little story.

I just went sailing and the coast guard is pretty strict on life jackets for guys sailing in little boats. I'm not much of a sailor, so i fell off when we were trying to do a jibe (sp?). I was doing the sheet, so when i fell out i let go of it-- and the boom swung around and ripped the sheet rope through all of the pulleys-- but the boat kept going for like 100 yards before flipping. My dad flipped it back over, but he couldn't rerig it by himself, because it kept on flipping-- and it was drifting towards the wall of the harbor. Because of the lifejacket i couldn't swim at all--- because it so limited my range of motion.. finally the only way that i could catch up to the boat was to take it off and put it under my feet while i swam. So i'm not sure how useful the lifejacket is---- at least in that kind of situation.. maybe it's good at other times though... i dunno.

#19 Wed, 04/26/2006 - 8:54pm

One of the easiest things to bring with you is a bicycle tire rubber. Cut the valve off and wrap it around you iako. You can leave it on and not worry about remembering to bring it all the time. There are alot of problems you can temporarily fix when you are out in the water.

#20 Wed, 04/26/2006 - 9:15pm

Sounds like you were probably wearing one of those $5 horse collars.

Yes, PFD's can be difficult to swim in, no doubt about it, some more so than others.

What if you hadn't been able to swim to the boat at all?

Skipper Rich

#21 Thu, 04/27/2006 - 12:46am

A case in point that I was personally involved with (though they obliterated the spelling of my name):

This gentleman was not wearing a PFD at the time. Had we not spotted him going overboard, he would have had a one-mile+ swim to shore. Had we not been on scene at the time, he likely would have drowned.

When attempting to swim while wearing a PFD, it is usually much easier to use a backstroke since that is how the PFD wants to orient you.

Skipper Rich

#22 Thu, 04/27/2006 - 6:05am

Frosso wrote earlier about a rule of thumb where they were a PFD if the water temp + air temp =100.

While it's a good idea to have rules by which you religiously make such decisions (go/no-go, wear/no-wear), one should consider them very carefully.

In the example offered, the water temp could be 50 and the air temp 50. If caught in the water (sans canoe or PFD) at those temps, a "normal" person can expect to lose consciousness (and assuming no PFD the ability to keep themselves afloat) within 1-2 hours.

My experience has been that physical conditioning has been less of a factor in ones tolerance to hypothermia than you might think. I've seen top performing athletes experience severe hypothermia in as little as ten minutes, and others in exactly the same conditions go for a half-hour without problem.

One huge benefit of wearing the pfd is that you don't have to expend a lot of the energy that you need to stave of hypothermia by attempting to swim.

Even in 70 degree water, people can lose consciousness in as little as 2 hours, particularly if attempting to swim to safety.

Good info on the subject of hypothermia can be found here:

Skipper Rich

#23 Thu, 04/27/2006 - 6:49am

Carrying tire rubber is a great idea. I have personally used the rubber to fasten a hurricane iako to the hull after losing a collar. A couple of weeks ago, I also used the rubber to fasten the front iako to the ama on one of those new Hyper Vantages after the snap button cracked in half. Duct tape is good to have but I would choose the rubber over duct tape if I had to make a choice. Duct tape tends to deteriorate rapidly in the sun and surf and must be replaced often.

#24 Thu, 04/27/2006 - 9:09am

I agree with snarfblat. Rubbers are sooo much better than duct tape. Duct tape doesn't stick when wet. Plus carrying around a roll is weird. Rubbers are really underrated and useful not just in paddling but for everything else.

One thing about safety that is rarely considered is swimming ability. People always talk about extra paddles, radios, life jackets, etc but never think about their swimming ability. If you plan on doing serious one manning you should learn to swim better. Honestly, it's not that smart going out to do a Hawaii Kai run if you know you are not a strong swimmer. A good rule of thumb is make sure you can swim in from where ever you paddle.

Ok i shut up now.

#25 Thu, 04/27/2006 - 12:05pm

I had a paddle snap once but managed to paddle in with my hands (more effective than you would think). I always carry a spare now.

I always wear a leash, carry a lifejacket lashed behind the seat and a cyalume stick in case I get caught out after dark and a Navy-issue whistle (deafening!). If I'm going more than a couple of miles offshore, I carry an EPIRB. Whitewater kayakers carry duct tape to repair holes but it must be some special tape to stick when wet.

#26 Thu, 04/27/2006 - 5:31pm

Another thought that came to mind. You guys ever see rescue boats go out with lifeguards? Also jetskis? What do they have strapped to their backs? Fins. They all have fins strapped to them. Pretty good idea.

#27 Fri, 04/28/2006 - 9:34am

I look at OC-1 as fun, exercise, and that deep inside me is the reality I might not make it back in! At 61 years old I learned in high school to get the most out of life is to pace ones self. You missed being in some good stories if you got drunk and passed out at a party, you didn’t win the cross country if you lost your kick at the end, running too fast of a pace.

I learned from surfing the beach surf in my 2 man sit-a-top (not pretty but incredible exercise) 2 rules use a paddle leash, and never let go of the paddle. 95% of the time those rules are not that important, you could even wear a hat and sunglasses. The other 5% I have absolutely worn myself out just paddling out to catch a wave, with my inner thoughts being what is broken inside me that cause me to do this, in other words scared shitless. Early in the learning curve I learned how difficult it was to swim to shore from an outside break in rough surf with a paddle, so I went with a double paddle leash, a single will snap. It is better to wipe out, hold on to paddle leashed to kayak and get drug under the water and dragged for what seems like forever needing a breath of air because the kayak catches the wave you missed. That situation is better than swimming in, retrieving the kayak and the paddle and then having to paddle out through whitewater over your head, you could miss the 3 of the best waves of the year, who knows.

The idiot who sold me the kayak told me the most important rule was not to get separated from the kayak, the leash keeps you in contact with the kayak. The recent kayak drownings in this area involves separation. I call the guy an idiot in a complimentary way, in my way of thinking when an idiot tells you something is a bad idea you heed his advice. He has been there and goes back! The posters who laugh or reject safety are the ones who haven’t been there. 5 times over the years in the water I would have been ecstatic to have been rescued luckily, I made it in.

After reading this thread, I see myself with a bicycle inner tube, spare paddle, a cell phone (with GPS, music and Bluetooth headset), a paddle leash, water, ankle leash and wetsuit appropriate to the weather. I am wondering about swim fins. Possibly on a small craft weather day a floatation attached close to the ankle leash canoe connection. Experience may adjust that down, but being focused on the fun as opposed to worrying about the downside is better to me. I see a lot of photographs with shades and hats. Of course best way is in a group, but if I would have waited for a group of kayak surfers I would have missed a lot of fun. I do get in the lineup with board surfers when it is way big. Surfers are good people, care about you. I do know this Mother Nature might as well be a crack head Mother giving you drugs to keep you from whining, because she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about you.

I am in N Florida and I have never even seen an OC-1 (I saw a link in a Surfrider email) but a shipment is arriving from China in Maine in August, Hello you know when you know. Too many days wind is good but surf blown out and kite sailing is too much set up, and plus you need a group.

If anybody has any advice I am needy.

#28 Wed, 07/25/2007 - 6:47am

Kanu The Rock
Ocean: In addition to the usual inner tube, I carry a small drysac on the deck next to me with some Tuck-Tape (that red building wrap tape sticks like there's no tomorrow even to wet surfaces) wrapped around a 4 inch cut of dowel, a cut off piece of genuine chamois to quick-dry a hull area before taping, spare cables which run on top of the deck and under seat made of high test nylon twine secured each end by clippable heavy duty fishing leaders. I also put lightweight float bags into each end of my canoe. I always wear a drysuit since the water here is around freezing even in summer. Fins are a good idea, maybe I'll get some.

#29 Wed, 07/25/2007 - 7:52am

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