Sailing: Survival Swimming

In 1998, some friends of mine and I were nosing around the idea of doing some kayaking. One friend, the only experienced kayaker, weaseled. The excuse: worry that the rest of us weren't sufficiently skilled swimmers, that we'd need rescuing. The following is an excerpt from my reply.

What kind of swimming abilities are recommended? If you fall off a sailboat and are not knocked unconscious, then you want to be able to tread water for a couple of minutes--long enough for your panicked friends to drop sail, turn on the engine, turn around, and toss you a line.

If you're with diehard sailors, they will attempt to turn around under sail power, executing a complicated figure-8 move that brings them back to your position. It's very tricky. Under no circumstances should you go sailing with diehard sailors. You might think that you're safe as long as you tie yourself to the boat--but diehard sailors will criticize your knots, untie them, and then toss you off the boat on general principles.

Not to go off on a tangent.

Are there specific skills to learn for kayaking? Like, swimming's probably more important than treading water. Seeing as how, if I fall out of a one-person kayak, there's not going to be anyone on board to take down its sail, turn on its motor, and steer the kayak in my direction, swimming's probably important. Do you know of any guidelines as to how much swimming is useful/recommended?

(I've gone kayaking since then. I even took a rescue class for kayaking. We learned what to do after falling out of a kayak. I learned that swimming to your kayak isn't so bad. Getting yourself back into your kayak from the water is the hard part.)


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