Get Pumped! E-mail
Written by Pat Kuhl   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 18:36

I got a Seattle Sports bilge pump 3 years ago because it was on sale. It always seemed like a luxury item—just another toy that I loaded into the hull of my Wilderness T140 before launching. But, I still bring it with me every time I go fishing. And I never appreciated its importance until last Friday. 

Daniel Shim and I fished near Carmel with a close friend, Jonny, who is new to kayaking. Our target was rockfish, lings, halibut and perch. We were greeted by a flat swell and ankle-slappers that probably lulled us into a delusional state of overconfidence. I've fished this spot for seven years and it might've been the flattest conditions I ever saw, masking the normally-dangerous shorebreak, surge, and offshore winds that make this beach a treacherous proposition. So when I saw Jonny strapping up his waders, I didn't bother to nag him about wearing a wetsuit. I'm a big proponent of wearing the proper attire and being prepared for immersion. That's why I wear a Kokatat SuperNova Angler drysuit. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best, right? But nobody wants to be a Debbie Downer, especially at 6AM.

After 4 hours of mediocre fishing in stellar conditions, I heard a garbled transmission on my VHF radio. I couldn't understand a word but I attempted to respond anyway. That's when I heard an audible yell for help and saw the bottom of Jonny's T13. He was about a quarter-mile offshore and a half-mile behind me when I began my adrenaline-fueled paddle toward him. The thoughts that race through your head in a situation like this are motivating yet terrifying at the same time. What happened? Did he fall in, is he having a heart attack, or has the landlord come to collect the rent? The only thing I DO know is my buddy needs help. And I am going to paddle as fast as I can to help him. I quickly hailed Dan on the radio to tell him Jonny was in the water and we need help. 

kuhl pump62612At first, we couldn't get the yak upright. It was tough to flip it over and we needed to get Jonny out of the water ASAP because he had waders on and the water was a chilly 55 degrees. Once we flipped it and he got back on, it immediately sank under his weight! It rolled over and he went back in the water. That's when I realized water was rushing into the Rod Pod hatch. By the time we righted the kayak again, it was completely full of water, barely floating thanks to the air trapped inside plus a half-dozen pool noodles.

Out came my trusty bilge pump. We got the water out pretty quickly- first through the Rod Pod hatch and then through the bow hatch after we got enough water out to push the bow down and pump more efficiently. It was similar to a T-rescue but without lifting the stern of the flooded yak out of the water. I learned a lot about my pump that day. I also learned that it could suck up any fishing line or bait inside the hull, and potentially clog the pump.

Lucky for us, it was flat calm with no wind. And luckily I had my pump! Otherwise, I'm not sure what we would've done. I usually keep my bilge pump inside the hull of my T140, tied to the attachment points under the Orbix mid-ship hatch. It's easy to locate and it can't wander to unreachable parts of the hull. But I am reconsidering the placement of my pump. After this experience I realize it might be smarter to store it in the tankwell or on the deck.

After pumping out the boat, and getting Jonny back on the yak, we tried to replenish him with water and snacks. I was worried about hypothermia at this point so we began paddling back to our launch. We were able to recover some of his gear, but he donated some gear and a nice rod & reel combo to Neptune.

Despite the circumstances, Jonny was still his usual upbeat self with that big smile. He stayed cool and collected during the whole ordeal—we'll probably look back in 5 years and laugh about it. After warming up, Jonny made the call to keep fishing for a while longer and it turned out to be a beautiful day on the water.

The main reason why Jonny's kayak took on water was due to an unbuckled strap on his Rod Pod hatch. One unbuckled strap shouldn't have posed a problem, but I think the weight of his tackle and gear inside the hull pushed it open while upside down. Everything was in a small soft cooler, which is a great idea-something that I do too. But, it was pretty heavy, and while upside down it was pushing against the inside of the hatch cover. If the hatch were strapped on tight, it wouldn't have leaked a drop. So, keep it strapped. And, always carry a bilge pump!

 

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