Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sunken Kayak

While 2 red flags flew above the US Coast Guard Station in Noyo Harbor, a green sit on top kayak bounced and bobbed beneath the surface of the water.

Around 2:30 a phone call came in about a sunken kayak in Noyo Bay. It was an office day for me. I was in a stupor of paperwork and bookkeeping and didn't know how to respond so I gave them Jeff's cell phone number.

An hour later, Jeff walks into our home office and starts assembling his dive gear and kayak rescue kit. I couldn't let him have all the fun so I wrapped up my office work, grabbed my kayak and gear and headed out to catch up with him in the Noyo Bay.

As I drove down the hill past the US Coast Guard Station, I noticed 2 red flags flying indicating a small craft advisory and rough sea conditions. A glance out at the ocean, it showed steep seas pitching the buoys sideways. The tide was high and waves were breaking over many of our favorite rock garden play spots.

When we arrived, Scott (the guy who had sunk his kayak) had an entourage of family and friends waiting to see what we would do. He had quite an adventure already - sinking his kayak and being rescued by the Coast Guard. They had called the local diver who does subsurface repair and salvage work, but he wasn't going out due to the conditions. They expected us to come out on a boat to recover the kayak and exclaimed their surprise when we started suiting up and unloading our kayaks.

Scott borrowed his dive buddy's kayak and came to assist us with the retrieval mission. We launched and paddled out to the spot where the kayak sunk. When the kayak sank, the guys cleverly tied a float tube (used for abalone diving) and anchor to the kayak to mark its position on the bottom of the bay.

When we got to the spot, Jeff suited up with his dive gear (fins, snorkel, and weight belt).

The kayak had sunk when the paddler had the front hatch open to store his weight belt and lost balance and capsized the kayak. If the weight belt had fallen out, the kayak would have been flooded but would have been neutrally buoyant. However, the weight belt slid into the bow taking her nose down into Davey Jone's Locker.

Jeff dove down and assessed the situation. The bow of the boat was bouncing on top of a submerged rock about 15 feet below the rolling surface. Getting the weight belt out of the bow was going to be key in recovering the boat. Not only did Jeff get the 25 pound weight belt out of the boat, but he swam with it up to the surface. We stowed it in Scott's borrowed kayak and I braced his boat.

Jeff had tied a line to the sunken kayak to one of the carrying handles. I stabilized Scott's boat as he attempted to pull her up, but the handle broke. Jeff dived down and retied the line, and we successfully pulled her up.

Without the weight belt, the kayak was neutrally buoyant and floated just below the surface of the water. We thought that we could bilge her out and tow her back to the beach, but her drain plug was missing and she continued to take on water. Plan B - tow the waterlogged, submerged kayak back to shore.

We got her back to shore with lots of cheers.

After getting the water-out, she didn't look too much worse for wear with the exception of her bow.

After bouncing and bobbing on the rock for 3-4 hours, the bow was considerably banged- up but still intact.

Just another day at the office.


  1. Thanks for posting your fun adventures! :D Not just another day...

  2. Awesome. Great story. Thanks for sharing it. I hope you got a nice tip from this fellow.