At the age of 75 I decided to paddle HBB yet another time alone. Well aware of the fact that my capacity by natural reason got a downward tendency, I immediately began to see my safety routines over.
I have during several years continued to maintain my techniques of rolling indoors and out-doors. At the end of 2008 I had made 23.080 rolls, of which several, that is important, in hard weather with cold water fully dressed and heavily loaded kayak with the tent bag fastened at the rear deck.
A change has lately occurred in my training. No longer I experiment with different spectacular rolls, I have completely turned back to basic roll - the uncomplicated screw roll - and with that I feel safe. The only foregoing of manner is that I sometime rock my kayak up with a series small paddle movements - also that a "basic" in kayak technique.
Through events in reality I have experienced that a paddler who maintains his roll technique gets a reflex like ability to stop an ongoing turn over even if both body and head is down in the water.
Facing the HBB-paddling I also tried my ability to from deep water bring myself back into the cockpit if the catastrophe should happen and I was forced to leave the same. Hereby follow my well-practiced technique not completely the advocated from the instruction books. However I will emphasize that I in no way reject advices from neither books nor their description of technique, I just conclude that to me my own technique is adequate.
My kayaks have good stability both they are empty or loaded and I have never felt the need of equip them with pontoons. Although, to lay alone in a cold and violent sea besides ones kayak barely with the nose above is an awful situation, even if just a matter of training, one longs to soonest possible be back in the cockpit. In hard weather I secure a line from my body to the kayak to not loose contact.
To a solo paddler the friend rescue drops and then remain two alternatives. One is the method of "re-entry and roll". Laying in the water one seas to that the kayak is upside down, turns the back towards the bow, hold with both hands on each side of the cockpit frame and at the same time a firm grip around the paddle on ones best roll side, makes a backward roll under the water so the legs enter the cockpit first, press oneself in to position, squeeze the legs against the inside of the hull or frame wings, rolls towards the light and starts breathing.
The other alternative is naturally to crawl up on the kayak in one way or another. I have thoroughly tried various recommended ways but have by the years found what suits just me best. Various makers of kayaks have very meritoriously by the years equipped their kayaks with different rescue arrangements to hold paddles and pontoons in place. They demand several manipulations and valuable time get lost, especially if the waves are running high.
I use my ordinary paddle, "the paddle is the last thing I leave hold of". By a single move I rapidly run one of the blades under the two shafts of the strapped spare paddle-halves on the rear deck. Besides the speed in this method it got two more advantages, the whole length of the paddle may be used as support and doesn't need further help by a pontoon, which saves more time. One condition is that the paddle has no or small angle between the blades. The blades should naturally be flat to the deck and the surface of water. My paddle coupling makes changes of angle very fast.
The other advantage is that the support paddle may be used further to the aft than fixed arrangements allow. This easies to crawl up on deck, as at least I may enter my legs into the cockpit in an easier and faster way before I rotate down the body in to the cockpit. During the entire manoeuvre the body must be leaned out a little towards the supporting paddle blade as the needed support is only given on that side. When safely in the cockpit I drag free my pad-dle and am by this ready to go on.
When I before the HBB start had made these tests, I came to following conclusions. I recognize my age has made its mark. "Re-entry and roll" doesn't feel as easy and natural as before even though I still master it. My method to crawl back on the kayak supported by the paddle feels heavy in wet clothes and shoes or boots, although I master it even if it takes great effort.
The outstanding in speed and most effortless rescue method is without competition the roll also called Eskimo roll. I do my basic roll just as easy as before. Yes, one needn't even have been in a kayak to easy understand that a manoeuvre that in less than five seconds re-turns a kayak in right position is the optimal.
Well, full of confidence I began my tour April 27, paddled 30 mil (162,5 Nm) in a sometime so hard weather that my rudder holder, a metal casing with bayonet joint in a drilled hole started to leak more and more. I abandoned at Ugglarps Kvarn, transported my kayak back home to get it repaired, returned to Svinesund and started once more in May 22.
Assuredly I had new days with strong wind and rain, mostly at the West coast, but all the time I kept myself warm and dry, that is an absolute demand to keep my paddling muscles in good condition. Almost always, except in no wind and high temperature, I dress in layer by layer. The sprayskirt with braces is hauled up over the chest, on top of that my safety west and above it all a fist class layer jacket made of Gore-Tex. The only water I then have inside my clothes is when the sea is running high and pours in around my neck.
Along the coast in north of Sweden I suffered from lack of sleep due to the heat and mosquitoes. The truth in "the paddle is the last thing I leave hold of" was now proofed in a most realistic way. Far out on a bay the lack of sleep came up on me. I sang, I shouted, I had strong coffee, I splashed seawater in my face all the time I paddled straight towards nearest land. Nothing helped. When I for a short while rested, now close to land, while the kayak glided forward, it happened. I fell asleep, woke up as body and head hit the water, with the paddle still in my hands I managed in the last hundredth of a second by a reflex rescue myself. I had good help from the watertight tent bag on the rear deck, its floating capacity slowed down the rotation of the kayak and helped me to easier get it back into right position, the bag acted as a large float.
The sum of it all is that I highly enjoyed most of it during the tour. I felt extremely privileged in being able to spend my days in this way. From my first paddle stroke in own craft in 1981 July 10 and with reaching goal of this tour, the total in my log book says 109.950 kilometres and 2.431 days, giving an average of 45.228 kilometres per day.
At last, maybe the utmost best: To return to the home and waiting wife. The wonderful period of recovering.
Yes, life is nice.
(a webmaster translation)