Electric Pumps

Ongoing discussion amongst friends about self rescues and pumps as well as recent experiences while conducting rescues, have prompted this post.

One of the first things I bought as a newcomer to sea kayaking was a hand pump. I still have it, it still works and I always carry it, but I do so now with a much better understanding of its limitations.

An electric pump seems to me, to be a 'no-brainer'. Yes they add a little weight and the obvious caveat is that it must be fit for purpose; I have heard tales of plenty that are not.
Fitted by Mike Webb of Rockpool Kayaks, this one is.
The pump itself is fixed to the hull behind the seat.
It is operated by a pressure switch on the footplate...
...and the battery is housed within the day hatch, mounted on the bulkhead.
The only downside to this arrangement is that it is possible to activate the pump accidentally and unless it is a calm, quiet day, you are unlikely to hear the pump operating. In practice, this has only happened once in the 9 months since it was installed.
Fully charged, the battery will empty my boat when fully flooded up to 10 times, the last couple rather more slowly.
Temperatures as low as -18c this winter did not affect the pump or battery adversely.
Practicing a re-entry and roll, in both cold and choppy seas as well as the pool, has shown that within 2 minutes of being in the water alongside my upturned hull, I can be paddling a stable, empty boat again. Alone, in real conditions, tired after a day's paddle and cold swim, I doubt there are many who could say the same relying solely on a hand pump.
Paddling solo and improving my chances in self rescue situations were certainly key factors in my decision to have an electric pump fitted, but I believe they are invaluable in any rescue situation.

Earlier this year, in breaking seas with short steep waves to around 6ft, 4 knots of tide and wind gusting to F6, I carried out a rescue which would have been immeasurably easier, had the 'casualty's' boat been fitted with an electric pump. Waves breaking over and into the cockpit while the 'casualty' re-entered meant the boat was flooded before the spray deck could be replaced. Both the 'casualty' and I expended a huge amount of energy in keeping the boat upright and emptying it, the whole process taking far longer than might otherwise have been the case. Others who might have offered assistance were involved in separate rescues. Fortunately, in the time that elapsed, the tide carried us out of the worst conditions.

It doesn't take a huge amount of imagination to run through various other scenarios which could have developed from that situation, to see just how effective a role an electric pump can play.
And before someone says it, I would happily wager the cost of the pump and installation (£180), that the majority of paddlers could not stay upright, let alone paddle a flooded boat effectively, for the 2 minutes it takes to empty mine, in the conditions of the incident described.

Lastly, an electric pump is just another piece of safety gear. The factors which led up to the incident described are numerous and I have offered observations to a number of those involved; the prevention or avoidance of such situations is always best, but we are all fallible and as someone else said: 'We are all between swims.'

Comments