The Ladder Rescue
Swims happen. Get back in your boat
PADDLING WITH A PARTNER IS ALWAYS BEST, because when Poseidon unleashes his power and you join the swim team, it's nice to have someone to pick up the pieces. The ladder rescue is a quick way to re-enter your kayak–with the help of your partner–and get back to paddling. It's especially reassuring for nervous swimmers as it creates a stable platform and makes communication between rescuer and swimmer easy. The ladder rescue is better suited to kayaks without rudders, as a rudder on the swimmer's boat will make climbing atop the stern far more awkward. — Alex Mathews
GET THE RESCUER IN POSITION. The rescuer approaches the bow of the capsized kayak and positions his boat perpendicular to it, so that the two boats form a T. Next, the rescuer pulls the swimmer's kayak across his cockpit. He starts by leaning his torso onto the overturned hull, lowering the edge closest to the swimmer's boat and placing himself in a powerful position. (Even upside down, a kayak has plenty of floatation in the form of waterproof compartments sealed by bulkheads.) With his closer hand on the keel, the rescuer reaches across his body with his other hand and grips the bow's grab-handle, engaging his torso to pull the capsized boat across his lap.
THE SWIMMER CAN HELP TOO. The swimmer can aid the rescuer by going to the stern of the capsized kayak and pressing down on it by getting his chest and body weight up onto the keel. This will help raise the bow of the inverted kayak, making it easier for the rescuer to yank it up across his spraydeck.
DRAIN THE BOAT. With the bow elevated, the water inside the capsized kayak will flow toward the stern bulkhead and drain out. It's unnecessary to lift the bow high, as simply having it across the rescuer's deck will empty most of the water. If a small amount of water remains it will not effect stability. The rescuer then flips the inverted boat in his lap, with its upright bow hatch roughly over his cockpit. The rescuer holds the kayak in the T formation with a secure grip on the boat and its perimeter lines while the swimmer re-enters.
CLIMB THE LADDER. The swimmer re-enters starting from the stern (which is low in the water due to the angle of the boat), straddling the kayak, and climbs the ladder of his kayak to regain the cockpit using the hatch edges as the "ladder rungs." Once over the seat he first drops his butt into the boat and then pulls his legs in. The rescuer should keep holding the boat until the swimmer's spraydeck is on and both kayakers are ready to proceed.
The above originally appeared in the August 2009 issue of Canoe and Kayak magazine
THE LADDER RESCUE IN ACTION.