A bow rescue (T rescue) is a buddy rescue that can be used if you capsize and know there is another paddler who can help you nearby. The rescue involves one paddler offering the bow or side of their boat to another (capsized) paddler, who is upside and still in their kayak, who can use it for support to hip snap back upright.
Although this is called a bow rescue there are several ways the boat can be offered for support. The rescuer can offer the bow, stern or the side of their boat as a platform for support. It is worth practising all the different techniques as they each vary in difficulty, mainly in stability for the rescuer and may be needed out on the water.
There are two different skills to be learnt for this rescue technique. The skills required as the capsized paddler and the skills required by the rescuer. The next exercises will take you the key elements involved in both roles.
How to practice the role of the student being rescued (capsized paddler) in a Bow Rescue
Start by practising these drills on flat water. First decide who is going to be the rescuer and who is going to be rescued (the capsized paddler).
The rescuer’s roll during this exercise is to keep balanced and steer the boat so that you remain perpendicular (at a T) inline with the capsized paddlers cockpit / hips. If the capsized paddler lets go of your boat is its your roll to make sure you don’t drift away.
1. The student being rescued, starts by holding onto the bow of the rescuers boat with it perpendicular to their cockpit (at a T) and practicing hip snaps.
2. Progressively experiment with tipping the kayak further and further over until you can complete the hip snap from complete upside down.
3. As you get confident with flipping upside down and hip snapping back up have a go at this progression exercise.
4. Using 1 or 2 hands to help you flip upside down, then use 2 hands for support as you hip snap back up. Next go, use just 1 hand for support as you hip snap back up, then 4 fingers, 3 fingers, 2 fingers then 1 finger.
Ideally you want to use as little power from your arms and rely on the power from your hip snap to bring you back up. Remember keep looking at the bow of the rescuers boat and keep your head low throughout. See the Hip Snap chapter for more details.
5. Once you are confident with this exercise its time to let go of the rescuers boat. Holding onto the rescuers boat flip upside down. Let go of their boat, then grab back hold and hip snap back up.
6. This time when you let go tap 3 times on the hull (bottom) of your kayak before grabbing back hold of the rescuers boat and hip snapping back up.
In a real situation this lets everyone around you know that you have flipped and alerts everyone to be ready to perform a rescue.
7. Next step, flip upside down, again tap the bottom of the bottom of the boat 3 times. But then, before you grab back hold of the rescuers boat sweep your hands along the sides of your boat from bow to stern 2/3 times feeling each time for the rescuers boat. On the last go take the bow of the rescuers boat and hip snap back up.
8. Do this drill several times to get used to being upside down and feeling for the rescuers boat.
Ideally you want your hands to be next to but not touching your kayak. An inch or so away from the side of your boat as you sweep them forwards to the bow and then back towards the stern. The idea here is that as your rescue paddles towards you and tries to line up for the rescue if they hit your hands and your hands are slightly away from the boat they can absorb the impact without getting crushed against the boat.
Now you are ready for a full rescue.
How to practice the role of the rescuer in a Bow Rescue
The rescuer has a very important role in this rescue as without being quick in responding to the capsized paddler and accurate in your approach you may well be having to deal with a full capsize and swim.
Lets start by practising on a non capsized paddler.
The first thing to practice is the approach to the boat.
1. Starting a few meters away from the capsized paddlers boat practice paddling in towards their kayak and sliding into the rescue position (T shape) you used in exercise 1. Aim to approach the kayak at angle (approx. 45 degrees) and hit their boat a foot or so away from their cockpit moving towards the middle of their boat.
It doesn’t matter if you approach from the bow of their kayak or the stern. The important thing is the angle. You need this as if you paddle straight into the boat you will be likely to hit and bounce away again.
2. Use the energy generate from coming in at an angle to give you the momentum to slide along the side of the boat towards the cockpit / middle of the boat and the capsized paddler hands.
You do not need to aim for their hands as they will be feeling up and down the side of the boat and they will find you.
3. All you then need to do is steer to get into the T rescue position (perpendicular to their boat) near to their hips.
4. Straighten up and be ready to balance as in exercise 1 as they hip snap of the front of your boat.
5. Practice this until you are 100% happy getting into this recuse position. Practice from different distances and approaching from different sides of the capsized paddlers kayak.
6. If you miss and end up sliding parallel alongside them. Don’t panic. From here you can perform the side rescue. Take their closet hand and place it on the side of your boat. Using their boat for support, brace and keep balanced as they hip snap of the side of your boat.
How to perform the full Bow Rescue
Its now time to practice the full rescue and put the skills you learnt into play.
1. Get into position with the rescuer close but not in contact with the capsized paddler.
2. The capsize paddler flips over and performs the skills learnt in exercise 1
3. The rescue uses the skills learnt in exercise 2 to rescue.
4. If if worked ‘High five’ your buddy have just done a successful bow rescue. If it didn’t its now time to practise a boat rescue and then try again 🙂
5. Try this from loads of different distances and angles. Get used to being upside down and actively involved in the rescues.
6. Try it in an eddy and on some flowing water. Check its deep enough with your paddle before you flip.
7. Try a stern rescue. Exactly the same as a bow rescue but using the back of your boat.
Make sure you tap when you fall in too alert other paddlers that you have gone over. Be ready for your rescuer, run your hands up and down the side of your boat feeling for the kayak approaching. If you can, open your eyes and you will see the shadow of their boat approaching. If your shoulders are hurting you are in the wrong position and / or using your arms too much. Remember it is the hip snap that gets you upright.
If you run out of air. Pull your skirt and swim. You can always try again.