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Boat Review: TRAK Kayaks’ 2.0 Touring Kayak

Photo: Joel Clifton
Transform and roll out! The redesign of the TRAK will please day tourers and far-flung adventurers alike. Photo: Joel Clifton

When I first reviewed the TRAK kayak over a decade ago, TRAK was an audacious startup with a knack for marketing but little experience in business or paddling. It set out to change the game with a unique gimmick—a hull with jacks in the folding frame, letting the paddler change its shape on the fly.

Why would I want a shape-shifting watercraft, I had wondered. And if I really wanted a folding kayak, wouldn’t I eschew TRAK for a company with a track record? The kayak itself was pretty neat, but I didn’t expect to hear much more from its makers in the ensuing years.

Fast forward to 2019 and the landscape has transformed. In the folding kayak space TRAK Kayaks is now the established brand and natural heir to the stalwarts such as Feathercraft and Folbot, which have, well, folded.

Who’s This Kayak For?

The company’s target demographic of baby boomers is at its peak of discretionary time and income and looking to rediscover themselves outdoors.

Meanwhile, high real-estate prices, denser cities, lower car ownership and the popularity of inflatable SUPs and novelty watercraft, like the Oru Kayak, are ripening the North American market for folding craft, which have never been a fixture here as they have been in Europe.

A few years ago, TRAK decided instead of improving incrementally on its original design it would apply all the lessons of its first decade into a completely overhauled 2.0 edition, focusing on ease of assembly, portability and convenience.

The company amassed 500 pre-orders through Kickstarter and Indiegogo in 2017. After some unexpected delays, the first batch of TRAK Kayaks’ TRAK 2.0 are shipping from TRAK’s factory in the Philippines.

Photo: Joel Clifton
Everything packs effortlessly into the rolling travel bag. TRAK makes a harness that turns the bag into a backpack for rough terrain. |Photo: Joel Clifton

Highlights

Highlights include lighter materials—upgrading from 6000 to 7000 series aircraft-grade aluminum for the frame and carbon fiber for the ribs—resulting in a weight loss of about 10 pounds and a packed size that’s a foot shorter.

The frame snaps together more quickly and easily. And TRAK’s marketing message has matured from something like “the kayak that changes shape!” to “the ultimate general-purpose touring kayak (that just happens to change shape and fold into a rolling suitcase too).”

TRAK now transcends the folding-kayak niche and is gunning for mass appeal, promoting a vehicle that is transformative in both a mechanical and spiritual sense.

The TRAK arrived at my door in a large cardboard box. Setup flows intuitively. The color-coded frame, blue for bow and red for stern, snaps together with shock cords, just like tent poles.

The Art Of Setting It Up

Aided by online videos and instructions, my first setup took an hour. Popping the sleek frame together elicited both an atavistic and space-age joy—kayaking’s skin-and-frame deep past mashed up with aerospace technology.

I wouldn’t mind reenacting this ritual before every paddle. I felt I’d performed a magic trick or created modern art. The second time I built it waterside in under 20 minutes, half expecting applause, and went back from kayak-to-bag even faster without struggle.

The final stage upon launch is to expand three hydraulic jacks in the hull, one on each side and the keel, to tension the skin and adjust the rocker, which changes the waterline length to anywhere between 12 and 15 feet.

I simply cranked up the keel jack until the kayak felt right. In a few seconds, I reached a Goldilocks level of maneuverability that normally would have required trying out different boats. The included sprayskirt has an opening with a roll-down waterproof closure for reaching in and adjusting the jacks.

TRAK Kayaks’ Design

The stern is shaped like a skeg, providing for very straight tracking unless you really shorten the waterline with the jack or put the kayak on edge, then it turns instantly.

The hard-chine, shallow-V hull has a high-performance feel, with moderate initial stability and very smooth edging, with no flop or point of no return before the cockpit coaming is well underwater.

There’s no integrated rudder or skeg, but anytime you’d want one—an extreme crosswind maybe—you can adjust the side jacks to give the hull a compensatory zig or zag.

TRAK cites affinity with water as its underlying inspiration and purpose, which their new creation seems to share.

I have no metrics to support any of the aficionados’ claims of skin-on-frame outperforming in rough water by mystically absorbing or smoothing out the energy of the waves; however, from personal experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something to the theory.

How The TRAK 2.0 Touring Kayak Feels On The Water

The TRAK 2.0 is a beautiful, smooth ride, gliding easily through waves, while chop tickles my heels through the subtly vibrating skin and frame.

Acceleration is quick, especially in a following sea, where it catches waves incredibly fast; the 2.0 is a rocket in the surf, maybe because of its lightness or some unknowable skin-on-frame Zen principle.

Apply an edge or a paddle stroke and the 2.0 responds instantly, a trait TRAK attributes to the new carbon-fiber ribs, which makes it stiffer and more responsive overall than previous versions with plastic ribs.

Detracting only slightly from the TRAK’s graceful appearance is the boxiness of the hull around the cockpit where the three jacks are, forming a straight section in the otherwise gently curving frame.

Otherwise, the deck is in many ways sleeker and more beautiful than a hardshell kayak, owing to the low profile of the attachment points for the many bungees and full-length deck-lines; they’re simply sewn into the skin. I wouldn’t be surprised if these attachments are stronger than the plastic fittings on a conventional kayak.

Behind The Scenes Of TRAK’s Engineering

TRAK says its polyurethane skin, which is reinforced with an extra layer at the keel, can withstand just about any abrasion or puncture. An unconditional five-year warranty covers the entire craft.

Many thoughtful design details show off years of engineering: the robust end toggles are screwed right into the hard plastic bow and stern inserts and are coated with rubber, so they are easy to grab; the large rubber handle on the deck zipper doubles as an extra carrying point; the ultra-comfortable padded seat; and the infinitely adjustable padded thigh braces are available in two thicknesses.

Loading the TRAK is tricky because there are no deck hatches, but it can be done. The included two gear and flotation bags hold 55 liters each. TRAK pegs the payload at about 350 pounds, including paddler, and recommends trips of up to 10 days.

At 16 feet, an all-arounder dimension falling squarely between an ocean day/playboat and dedicated tourer, plus a hull that changes shape to accommodate all uses, the TRAK 2.0 really is a paragon of versatility and tradition-meets-technology that will meet most paddlers’ every need.

If you’re interested in ordering one, 50 percent down this spring will get you in line for September delivery.

By early 2020 TRAK expects to be caught up and ready to deliver on impulse purchases, with free shipping worldwide to make wild dreams possible. Just fly to some exotic destination and order a TRAK to your hotel.

[Also Read: TRAK’s Bold, New After-The-Sale Programs]

TRAK Kayaks TRAK 2.0 Specs

Length: 16 ft
Width: 22.5 in
Weight: 42 lbs
Cockpit: 16.5 x 30.5 in
Packed: 53 lbs
Weight Packed: 41 x 19 x 9 in
Size Size Capacity: 350 lbs
MSRP: $3,599 USD

Transform and roll out! The redesign of the TRAK will please day tourers and far-flung adventurers alike.
Feature Photo: Joel Clifton

SUP Fails Video

This video highlight reel showcases the best of the worst SUP fails you have ever seen.

Those who have tried a standup paddleboard before know that there is a learning curve getting used to the balancing. It doesn’t take much to fall off one if you are new to the sport.

Paddleboarding can be relaxing and peaceful but it can also be very humbling. This is clearly shown in the display of overconfident paddlers trying the more advance maneuvers like handstands or tree jumping. We are thankful for their efforts.

Whether you are a beginner or experienced paddler, you should always wear your PFD. They even make belt pack PFDs so you don’t get those unwanted tan lines.

We also wouldn’t recommend your first time on a paddleboard be next to the dock where you could fall and hit your head. There are a few of these cringe-worthy moments on display in the video.

If you are looking to purchase a SUP, we recommend checking out the paddleboards in our Paddling Buyers Guide.

Sit back and enjoy!

 

Win a Werner Kayak Paddle

 

Werner’s 2019 whitewater paddles have just dropped and to celebrate, we have a treat for our loyal readers. We’re giving one lucky paddler the opportunity to win a Werner Surge or Werner Strike. To enter, complete the form below with your first name and email address. Once you’ve entered, share to earn 25 bonus entries.

Watch the video above to see these sweet paddles in action. Then check out what’s new from Werner Paddles in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide.

Photo credit: Kalob Grady | Paddler: Dave Fusilli 

Poem: The Shuttle

The Shuttle Poem
The Shuttle Poem

The Shuttle

Back of a pickup
Crushed bodies down low
Catching a ride to the top, sometimes below

Why I love the shuttle?
Wind in your hair, a river coming into view
Sometimes an old one, sometimes new

Laughter; nerves for some if bigger water than before
Butterflies fluttering in their core

Companionship of kindred spirits, encouragement from your crew
Anticipation builds and excitement brews

By the time the shuttle is complete, reassurances to the nervous ones replete

Why I love the shuttle?
I get to know the driver too
Like being invited into someone’s home
You can learn a lot about who transports you

What music plays on their radio, how crazy they drive, fast or slow
The route and way they prefer to go

What tools or odds and ends are lying on their floor
All the little clues that helps me get to know them more

So much more than just a shuttle~
A time to bond and learn names and faces
For when we finally get on that river
We are no longer strangers but forever river friends from all over places

 

JoAndra (Jo) Proia is an L2 ACA Certified Coastal/River and L2 SUP Instructor, L1 Yoga Teacher and Director of Women’s Programming for Get Outdoors Paddlesports in Greensboro, NC. In 2012 Jo founded the dynamic women’s paddling organization GET:OUTDOORS WOMEN ON THE WATER. She is also a published author of the guidebook: “Piedmont Lakes, A Practical Guide for Boating in the North Carolina Piedmont” and she is the monthly outdoor writer for Natural Triad Magazine.

Kevin Hart On Whitewater Rafting

Kevin Hart’s talk about whitewater rafting will be sure to make you laugh. The American comedian, actor and producer talks about a TV show that he is preparing to film. The show is based on him doing things that “black people are typically afraid of doing” he said. He gives examples like bungie jumping, skiing, sky diving, and whitewater rafting.

The producers of the show needed to know that Kevin was actually going to pull through on the show and not back out at the last minute. Kevin offered to take his family whitewater rafting to reassure to them that he was capable of doing some of these more adventurous activities.

His description of his experience rafting is humorous, but it is one that many whitewater rafters would understand. All of the ominous safety instructions he was told by guides are not a stretch from what is actually shared with new rafters on a daily basis.

Anyone with previous rafting experience will recall guides giving instruction not to stand in whitewater because of potential foot entrapments, or that you must aid your own rescue by either swimming back to the raft or to one of the shores that a guide identifies before the set of rapids that you hit.

We laugh when Kevin explains it but can all recall the first time we went whitewater rafting and were given similar instructions and likely had a moment of “nah, I’m probably going to sit this one out.”

For those who have been rafting before, you know that it is the people that flip out of their rafts that usually have the most fun and will be the ones sharing their stories by the fire that night. Raft guides are well aware of this and are the first people to purposely flip a raft to amp up the fun. Who isn’t down for a little extra fun in their life though?

Kalob Grady’s 2017/2018 Highlight Reel

 

Kalob Grady is a professional kayaker and head kayaking coach at World Class Academy. When he isn’t shaping the next generation of kayakers he travels the world pursuing his own passion for whitewater kayaking trying to become the best that he can be. After he released his 2017/2018 highlight reel in April 2019, we reached out to get some additional information on his past seasons.

1) Where did your paddling take you in 2017/2018?

The past 2 years have bought me to some tremendous places. Highlighted by trips in 2017 to Hawaii, Chile, Uganda and Zambia and in 2018 to Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Uganda, and India. In addition to all the incredible kayaking closer to home throughout North America in the Northwest Territories, BC, Northern Quebec and the Pacific Northwest.

2) Favorite place you paddled in 2017/2018?

Uganda has always been special to me, so with the completion of the Isimba dam coming closer everyday throughout the past few years, I made three separate trips to the mighty White Nile throughout 2017/2018. To make as many memories as possible, to share this magical place with friends and family, and to sadly say goodbye to Nile Special on my final trip in October 2018.

3)  Biggest personal accomplishment of 2017/2018

Over the past two years, I have been the Head Coach for World Class Academy, a kayaking focused, travelling high school. I feel my biggest accomplishment in 2017/2018 was maintaining a balance in my commitment to share my passion for kayaking and experiences on the river with the next generation though WCA and in making the most on my breaks from school to push myself and to continue striving to be the best kayaker that I can be.

4) Biggest challenges you faced in 2017/2018

Similar to my biggest accomplishment, I believe my biggest challenge throughout the past few years has been to find the ultimate balance of work and play. Knowing when to put my head down and grind through and when to take full advantage of opportunities that come my way.

5) Boat of choice?

I don’t know if it is still considered ‘new’ but the Jackson Kayak Antix is beyond versatile. As seen in the video, in is the ultimate downriver play tool, but also a weapon for big wave freestyle or running 50ft waterfalls.  The 1 boat to rule them all if you will!

6) What did the Nile Special mean to you? 

Nile special meant a lot to me to say the least. It was my first international kayaking trip when I was 16.  It taught me so a lot about kayaking and freestyle, and about myself and how I can learn from mistakes and why perseverance is important.  I met a few of my closest friends there waiting in line, have made more memories there than anywhere else in the World, have shared time there with friends that are no longer with us.  It will forever be a place that I remember, it shaped who I am today without a doubt and I cant wait for the day that we ‘dis-assemble’ that stupid mass of concrete and let the Nile flow free once more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gear Review: SPOT X Two-Way Satellite Messaging Device

SPOT X Two-Way Satellite Messaging System
Photo Credit: Michael Hewis

In May of 2018, SPOT released its newest device called SPOT X which is their first venture into a two-way satellite messaging system. I had an opportunity to test this device while doing a 10-day canoe trip circumnavigating Algonquin Park on a route known as The Meanest Link. On this challenging 424-kilometer route it was not only important to have this device for safety, but it allowed us to provide real-time updates to those who wanted to follow along online.

SPOT is known for its tracking feature that allows users to set up a landing page for friends and family to follow their adventures in real time. Previous models, including the GEN 3, featured the ability to send custom messages you could set up before your trip, in addition to the important SOS button a paddler could press in the event of an emergency to initiate a rescue. In using the previous GEN 3 model, I struggled to decide what to set the messages to. How do you protect yourself against every possible scenario with only two custom messages? This is one of our favorite things about the new SPOT X with two-way communication.

What we liked:

The new SPOT X worked perfectly for our messaging needs. While on our trip, we shared daily text updates to keep family and friends informed on our distance travelled, number of portages and exciting experiences along the way. We added contacts to the device before we left and could send and receive messages from either text or email. We chose to send these directly to a friend who was publishing them to our Facebook page on our behalf. You are currently able to send messages directly to a Twitter account but unfortunately, due to a Facebook update, the X cannot publish directly to your Facebook page. We are unsure if this is something that they will be able to remedy in the future.

The two-way messaging is ideal in circumstances where you require non-emergency assistance. Rather than being forced to use a catch-all message like in previous models, this would allow you to email your friends with the specific help you need. This will also ensure you are not rallying a helicopter for a non-life-threatening emergency.

The daily text updates were a nice addition to give context to the tracking link we had shared before leaving. The tracking link allows you to set up an interval for which the device will ping your location and send it to a page where people can follow online. Intervals can ping at 2.5, 5, 10, 30 or 60-minute intervals and you can set your page to display all pings for up to seven days. We were happy with both of these functions and, of course, for the SOS functionality, which we were thankful not to have to use.

The interfaces on both the device and online are very user friendly and there is a lot of support available online including the ability to call their support team to ask questions directly.

We like the rechargeable battery and we recharged on the go with our portable battery power bank. We didn’t quite get 10 days of battery out of a single charge, but we were tracking at a high interval (every 10 minutes) which uses more battery. We were also sending out a high number of messages each day.

Improvements we would like to see:

Where we would like to see improvement is in the ability to resend messages. There were a few times that the interface would show an exclamation mark next to a sent message, indicating that the message had not been sent. This can be a challenge with satellite-based devices since you need an unobstructed view to the sky in order to successfully send a message. In our situation, many of our campsites were in densely forested areas. Ideally SPOT would add an option to resend or alternatively allow you to copy and paste your last message so you can send it again, rather than retyping it a second time. As it turns out, all of our messages that had the exclamation mark had actually been delivered.

SPOT X Feature Overview:

  • Messaging: Exchange 2-way messages with any cell phone number or email address from anywhere in the world
  • Tracking: Available on 2.5, 5, 10, 30- or 60-minute intervals to ping your current location.
  • Compass: Built-in compass with programmable waypoints to help you navigate
  • S.O.S.: Send and S.O.S. to the 24/7 search and rescue center
  • Social Integration: Link to social accounts to keep friends and family up-to-date
  • Check-in: Quickly and easily let everyone know you are okay.
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Battery. 240 hours (10 days) in continuous 10-minute tracking mode
  • Durability: Impact, dust and water resistant
  • Display: 2.7” Backlit Display
  • Ports: Micro USB

SPOT X Cost:

Device:

$249.99 USD | $359.90 CDN

Plans:

SPOT offers a variety of different coverage packages. Similar to a cell phone, after buying the device there is a cost to receive service. If you are someone who will regularly need access to your device there are monthly plans between $12 and $30 per month (based on a 12 month contract) depending on how many messages you would like to send. Alternatively, if you are someone who goes on one or two big trips per year that you would like to be covered on, SPOT offers flex packages. These packages cost between $15 and $40, again depending on how many messages you want to send, that allow you to purchase only a month of coverage at a time. Something that SPOT previously did not offer.

Photo credit: Michael Hewis

Kayak Explodes In The Middle Of Waterfall

Wade Harrison has a video posted on his Youtube channel showcasing a kayak that explodes while going down the last drop on Avalanche Falls. An experience that would have likely been terrifying for the individual inside the kayak.

Great to see that the paddler was wearing a helmet and PFD and had the support of his friends on this run. You can see he managed to swim off to river right just before the next set was starting.

Some great comments from others on the video highlighting that he did in fact make his roll and that this should not have been considered a swim.

Please be advised the language may not be suitable for all audiences.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Wade Harrison

Need a new kayak? Check out our Paddling Buyer’s Guide.

Press Release: Canadian Canoe Museum Receives $10 Million For New Building

On April 1, 2019,The Honorable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism announced that the Canadian Canoe Museum would be receiving $10 Million in funding towards their new building in Peterborough.

The location for the new facility will be at the Peterborough Lift Lock on the Trent Severn Waterway. The existing location was heavily restricted by its size, with many of the 600 watercraft and thousands of artifacts not on display.

The new $65-million, 85,000-square-foot building will replace the 1960s-era building and boast the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft.

“Our government knows that investments in arts and culture help build vibrant communities and support local economies,” Rodriguez said.

“It’s the largest investment the canoe museum has ever seen,” said Executive Director Carolyn Hyslop.

The reason for this new building is rooted in three key areas:

  1. Preservation, Promotion & Protection – Artifacts are at risk of accelerated deterioration and potential loss in current building
  2. Organizational Sustainability & Growth – An opportunity to increase attendance and grow programs
  3. Programmatic Capacity – Increase capacity for their award-winning educational programming

About The Canadian Canoe Museum

With our world-class collection as a catalyst, The Canadian Canoe Museum inspires connection, curiosity and new understanding. In partnership with individuals, groups and communities – locally, provincially and nationally – we work to experience and explore all that our collection can inspire. This sees students opening their minds in our galleries; community members connecting through artisanry; people of all ages getting on the water and learning to paddle; and exhibitions and events that spark conversation and collaboration.

 

A Lesson to Live By

Sean Danielson is a lucky man.

After nearly three hours in the frigid waters of Chesapeake Bay, the kayak fisherman was hypothermic and barely conscious. The sun had just set, and if Lana Lohe hadn’t put her camera down at that instant and caught the unusual streak of green in the corner of her eye, then Sean Danielson would certainly have died that April evening. The mere fact that Lohe and her husband Robert passed that spot at that moment, after 18 days sailing from the Bahamas, was an extraordinary coincidence. A miracle, some would say. After all, theirs was the only boat Danielson had seen all day.

Sean Danielson is indeed a lucky man, but there’s a lot more to the story of his capsize and rescue than luck, or the everyday heroism of those who pulled him from the freezing bay waters. And, like many things in life, it began with a little fatherly advice.

Danielson grew up fishing with his dad, and when he moved home to Connecticut to help after his father broke a hip a few years ago, they picked right up where they’d left off. Often, they fished from kayaks, and on those hot summer days when Danielson would slip off his life jacket and set it behind his seat, his father would gently chide him.

“I mean, we were 100 yards from shore, and the lake was like glass,” Danielson says. “But he always said, ‘Sean, that kayak isn’t very buoyant. You know you should keep wearing that life jacket.’”

The lesson stuck, and when Danielson moved to Maryland and began fishing the sometimes-turbulent waters of Chesapeake Bay, he never failed to wear his lifejacket. As the striped bass season neared in the spring of 2018, he became obsessed with catching the hard-fighting trophy fish from his kayak. The books he read and the old-timers he talked to all had the same advice: Fish the drop-off, where the depth goes from about 10 feet to 40 feet or more. That’s where the stripers are.

He bought a depth finder, and one Saturday that April he paddled out into the bay for what seemed like miles. By the time he got back to the dock his girlfriend had already gone home—she thought he’d decided to paddle all the way across the bay. In fact, he hadn’t gone far enough. He didn’t find the depth line.

That Wednesday he tried again, starting at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and paddling due east into the bay. This time he didn’t tell anyone where he was going. Dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt under his lifejacket, he was comfortable enough in the 55-degree weather. The water temperature however was just 47 degrees. Danielson, who had done almost all of his kayaking on protected lakes, took a few minutes to find his paddling rhythm in the choppy bay. “It was awkward at first, but I learned to just relax, keep my center of gravity low and just kind of go with it,” he says.

He was about two miles out when the wave caught him. “I didn’t see it,” he says. “There was no warning, just a big wave that came from the side and rolled me over. It just happened instantly, and all of a sudden I was in the water.”

Danielson Illustration - Flipped into water

From that instant, the clock was counting down.

Thanks to his lifejacket he wasn’t at immediate risk of drowning, which is the leading cause of kayaking deaths. But the next most common cause of kayaking deaths is hypothermia. In 47-degree water, a healthy man of Danielson’s size can expect to survive anywhere from one to three hours. It’s an inexact science, but there was no uncertainty about the setting sun. It would slip below the horizon in less than three hours, taking all realistic hope of rescue with it.

Danielson took stock of his situation.

“I remember specifically telling myself to stay calm. I told myself, ‘It’s OK. Flip the kayak over and get back in.’” But when he righted the kayak, I was completely full of water. He was paddling an Old Town Vapor 10, a 10-foot sit-inside kayak that retails for a few hundred dollars. A reasonably athletic kayaker can scramble aboard a sit-on-top kayak after a capsize, and with practice it’s possible to remount a sit-inside kayak if it’s equipped with bulkheads dividing the hull into separate watertight compartments. The task is almost impossible in a kayak like Danielson’s, a sit-inside with no bulkheads.

Danielson Map Graphic

“I flipped it over and it was so full of water it just flipped over again. I kept flipping it over again and again and again. I’d turn it over, and it would be sitting below the surface,” he says. “I started to realize this wasn’t going to work.”

He scanned the horizon for boats, but saw none. Nobody knew he was out there.

He thought about leaving the kayak and swimming for shore, but he decided that staying with the kayak gave him the best chance of being seen, and being seen was his best chance of survival. Realistically, it was his only chance.

“In the beginning, I told myself I am not going to die in the Chesapeake Bay. It’s just not gonna happen,” he says. For more than two hours, as the sun tracked toward the horizon, he kept trying to right the kayak. He tried straddling the upside-down hull, but couldn’t keep his balance. He found a cup floating in the water and tried to bail, but it was no use.

The bay was completely empty, except for the container ships ghosting down the shipping channel. They were as far from Danielson as the shore—about two miles—but still he waved and wailed on the orange plastic whistle clipped to his lifejacket.

“As time went on I was getting colder,” he says. “I was getting tired, but I was not going to stop flipping that kayak. I said, ‘I’m not going to die not trying.’”

That same evening Lana and Robert Lohe were motoring north in their Catalina 36 Our Diamond. They’d spent the previous six months living aboard the 36-foot sailboat in the Bahamas. Now, after 18 days travelling up the Intracoastal Waterway they were barely an hour from their Annapolis home.

“We were reflecting on what a wonderful trip we’d had, and I was taking pictures of the sun setting—it was a beautiful sunset—and just when I was getting ready to set the camera down I saw something,” Lana Lohe says.  She thought it looked like a piece of carpet; to Robert it looked like a patch of seaweed. But when she looked again with the binoculars she saw an arm moving.

“I told Robert, ‘I think there’s somebody in the water. Oh my gosh there’s somebody in the water. Turn! Let’s go!’” she recalls. Now they could hear Danielson’s whistle, and see that the splash of color wasn’t carpet or seaweed. It was an overturned kayak.

A Lesson To Live By

The couple immediately went into rescue mode. Our Diamond was motoring, but even with no sails to douse, it took a few passes to get a line to Danielson, and then for Robert to grasp his hand and help him to the swim ladder on the vessel’s stern. Next he made a radio call on VHF Channel 16: “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is sailing vessel Our Diamond. . . .”

The Coast Guard responded instantly, and as Robert reported his location and the nature of the emergency he looked over his shoulder and saw that Danielson was still in the water clinging to the ladder. He was too cold to move. Robert set the radio down for a moment, grabbed Danielson under the armpits and heaved him aboard. Lana bundled him in a fleece blanket. He was safe for the moment, but still dangerously hypothermic. He needed to get to a hospital, and fast.

The moment Capt. Bill Walls heard the Mayday call, he pointed his 29-foot bay boat at the only sailboat in sight. As he closed the three-quarter-mile distance to Our Diamond, he hailed Robert on the VHF, asking if he could render any assistance.

Robert said yes. Our Diamond makes about 8 knots flat-out. Walls’ motorboat is nearly four times that fast, and time was of the essence. They decided to transfer Danielson to the faster boat, a feat that required no small measure of strength and seamanship.

They brought the boats together stern-to-stern, and with Lana handling the lines the three men—Walls, his mate Mark Marra and Robert Lohe—passed the semiconscious Danielson into the motorboat.

“I normally don’t run a boat that hard on the first trip of the year but I had her wide open, because I knew he needed help and he needed help quickly,” Walls says. Danielson was “reddish purple” and falling in and out of consciousness. Marra got him out of his wet clothes and into a dry sweatshirt, then kept him talking. Whenever Danielson started to drift off, Marra would slap his cheeks, his shoulders, his legs. He kept up a running banter, even cracking jokes.

“We asked him what he was doing out here, and he said ‘fishing,’” Walls says. “So we asked him if he caught anything.”

As they raced for shore, Walls and Robert Lohe worked the VHF. When Walls roared in to Rhode River Marina it was already full dark, and the lot was full of flashing lights. Danielson was admitted to the hospital with a core body temperature of 80 degrees, and over the coming days he made a full recovery. He even bought a new sit-on-top fishing kayak to target largemouth bass on inland waters.

So yes, Sean Danielson is indeed a lucky man.

If you’ve been reading closely, you may be keeping a mental checklist of the cardinal safety rules Danielson ignored or perhaps didn’t even know. He wasn’t dressed for cold-water immersion. He paddled alone, and didn’t tell anyone where he was going. He lacked experience on open water and his kayak, to put it charitably, was little better than a pool toy.

But here’s the thing: Most kayakers have made those same choices. Many kayakers have made them recently, and often. So though Sean Danielson is a lucky man, he is not an unusual one. Any one of us could find ourselves in his place, or that of the people who saved his life. If we do, we can only hope we respond with Danielson’s determination, or the selflessness of his rescuers. Walls says anyone would have done the same in his shoes. “It’s the golden rule. You treat people how you want to be treated, and you help them in times of need.”

In the end, that’s why Danielson agreed to sit down in front of a camera and recount his ordeal. To pay it forward. Because for all the things he got wrong, the one he got right—wearing his lifejacket—provides a lesson all of us can live by.