Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Saturday, bloody Saturday

The plan was simple. take a few days off and go to the beach. Relax, and write a little. Most importantly shoot the remaining two videos for the book. I never shot video for the scramble self rescue and paddle float re-entry. A friend offered up his families beach house, and another couple decided to join my wife and myself. It looked to be a perfect weekend. 

We got to the beach Friday night, and the rain started while we slept. I hadn't been in a kayak in close to a month, and despite the rain I was able to wait until almost 1 before the urge was overwhelming. It was raining, and cold, but as always the dry suit served me well. The ocean was very rough with wind driven surf well into the range of 'not safe in a seventeen foot kayak' so I found a boat launch that was on a canal that fed into the ocean. I paddled into the canal and paddled to where the canal met the Atlantic and played in the surf for a bit. On my way back up the canal, I found a spot perfect to shoot the video I needed. 

I slid out of my cockpit and up onto the back deck. I dropped my feet in the water and and sat silently for a few moments. the water was cold, but calm and flat. There was no boat traffic because of the weather. I slid into the water with the plan of doing a couple of scramble self rescues for the camera mounted on my bow. 

I placed a hand on my back deck and one on my cockpit coaming. Lowered myself deeper into the water and kicked up onto my back deck. I slid slightly and my hand went into my cockpit for greater leverage. Two fingers on my right hand brushed something sharp, slicing off the tip off my ring finger and creating a deep laceration on my my middle finger. I looked at my hand in disbelief. I finished the self rescue and slid into the cockpit and dropped my hand into the water to clean it off so I could see the severity of the damage. Very quickly I assessed my situation. I was two miles from my car and more importantly the massive first aid kit in my cars trunk. There was literally nothing in my boat except what I was wearing, a bilge pump and a paddle float. I had no way to stop the bleeding. I applied direct pressure with fingers from my other hand while keeping my injured hand above my heart. I did this for a few moments. That was when the driving rain started. It was slack tide, so I was neither being pushed to the car, or drawn from it. It was cold, and the direct pressure worked on the laceration, but not on the digit with no end. I figured I had to just go for it, and get to the dry clean gauze in the first aid kit in the trunk. I paddled hard for about 15 minutes. concentrating on my stroke, and rotation. I got to the boat ramp I had launched from, and pulled my bilge pump from under the bungies to get the water out of my cockpit before i had to lift the boat. It was then I realized that there was blood everywhere. On my bilge pump, inside my white cockpit, and all over my right hand and paddle. 

I got the kayak on top of the car without too much trouble, but actually securing it was difficult. getting my drysuit off was near impossible. I ended up driving back to the beach house with it around my ankles so as not to get my car seat wet. Before driving home I pulled out my first aid kit and got some gauze on the two fingers. 

Sunday I skipped paddling. On Monday when I redressed my finger with the missing digit it bled again. The laceration is healing nicely. 

The big lesson from this adventure is that there will always be a small first aid kit in my kayaks cockpit. Always accessible. I am thinking it might be velcro'd to the underside of the deck. If I had a first aid kit with me I could have easily pulled up onto a beach and taken care of my hands. The second, and perhaps more important lesson is what cut my fingers up in the first place. Looking into this there are two uncovered screws at the back of my seat. Looking at the video though it doesn't look like my hands get near that location. I am going to follow up with the medical director from the company I teach wilderness medicine for to see if a cold water soaked hand is more likely to get lacerated than a warm dry hand. Something bad can happen, and it's important to be prepared for it. 


  1. Sorry to hear about your hand. Nice write up, and a great reminder to always be carrying at least SOMETHING in the way of a 1st aid kit. Thanks.

  2. Blergh.
    I feel a little dizzy now, Captain.

  3. Well then Blackbird, be glad the post didn't include the video from the camera that recorded the entire event.


  4. PO, Glad you're OK - that's "drama in real life"! Take good care, and we'll take in the lesson learned. Duncan.

  5. The thing I like about this post is that no matter how much we prepare, life lessons like this one keep us on track for the future.
    Hope all is well with the digit.


  6. Thanks for the comments guys, I am going to put the hand to the test and go for a paddle this morning.