One of the self-rescues that should be found in every open water paddler's toolkit is re-enter and roll. It takes a while to master; however, it is one of the fastest, most reliable, and easiest ways back into the saddle after a capsize.
The technique is not without inherent challenges. Once in the boat and out of the drink, the paddler has substantial water in the cockpit and needs to re-skirt—stretch the spray skirt over the cockpit coaming. Even in calm water re-skirting can be difficult as the water in the cockpit destabilizes the kayak. If you mix in a boat with low primary stability and rough water conditions, the task becomes quite challenging.
A recent post on the blogosphere examined a remedy: attaching the spray deck to the cockpit ring before rolling up. If you can hold the air long enough and re-skirt underwater, you can, then, use the paddle to stay upright and don't need free hands.
With hope, you already have a foot or an electric pump that will take care of the water trapped under the decks. Is it possible, though, that re-skirting will eliminate both drawbacks of the re-enter and roll technique? Can it be that, when you roll up, you will have the skirt already attached and the skirt will keep the water out of the cockpit? Wouldn't that be something?
So to the pool I schlep to conduct a small experiment.
- Objective: to test if the amount of water in the cockpit can be reduced/eliminated by closing the opening with the spray deck before rolling up.
- Rationale: rolling up involves scooping. Spray deck would close the opening, get rid of scooping and reduce/eliminate the amount of water in the cockpit after the roll.
- Equipment: Valley Avocet with a keyhole cockpit.
- Result: (bummer) no appreciable difference in the amount of water with and without spray skirt.
Conclusions: I was not able to see any difference in the amount of water in the cockpit regardless of the skirt being attached or not. I found about 3" of water on the bottom of the cockpit either way. Then I talked to another paddler about this dilemma. He suggested that one would need to keep the kayak pointing to the bottom at all times. This is the old-style re-entry and roll technique where, instead of entering the boat from the side, the paddler does a somersault and enters from underneath. The idea behind this entry technique was to maintain the air pocket inside the cockpit and to prevent the water from entering the boat. I believe this method was discarded with the advent of bigger keyhole cockpits which allowed the water in regardless.
Disappointed with the original attempts, re-energized by this new idea, I tried re-enter, re-skirt and roll with the somersault from underneath the boat. Unfortunately, the expectations were dashed again—the same 3" sloshing around under my legs again.
Debriefing, we speculated that the thighs may make a difference. For paddlers of different physical dimensions the thighs would cover the cockpit differently. If the upper legs are big enough they will plug the cockpit opening and different amounts of water will be scooped up during the roll.
Have you tried re-enter and roll? What thoughts do you have about re-attaching the spray deck in bumpy conditions? Have you tried RRR? This study is not over. I've shared findings from one paddler in one boat in the pool. My colleague at the pool was convinced that attaching the sprayskirt before rolling up reduces the amount of water in the cockpit for him. Please post your thoughts and findings.