I went out on Lake Eppalock for the first time since the recent rains topped it up. A breezy day with wind from the north-west. I paddled north around the point at the main picnic area and the the waves picked up although there wasn't really much fetch. Saw 3 sit on top kayaks with one paddler in the water. I paddled up and asked them if he needed some help getting back in. Asked if he had done it before and they said not really.
Started talking to him and he seemed concerned about the water in the kayak, but I was thinking, "It's a SOT, no worries". I had him hang onto my boat while I got his situated, cursing the lack of deck lines. Sent him around the outside and started to talk him through, "Ok kick your legs up to the surface and slide your belly onto the kayak, then I want you to..." At that point he pulled himself onto the kayak with his arms and proceeded to pull his feet up so he was crouching on the kayak and of course flopped back in.
"Ok just stay there and catch your breath. Then this is what you are going to do - belly, butt, feet. Slide you belly onto the boat, roll over so your butt is in the seat, *then* twist around and bring your feet in." Lesson learned #1, give the overview and at least try to get people to go step by step.
That went better but he was floppy as all heck before I could get his paddle back to him. That's when I noticed he had hatch down into the hull and had knocked it open so he did have a kayak full of water. Gave my hand pump to the wet kayaker so he could start to pump out. Lesson #2 hand pumps are a bridge to far for a sort of freaked out fisherman. Looked for something to attach a tow line to. Got his friend around to the other side so he could help support him. Lesson #3 he couldn't help worth shit, but at least he had something that maybe I could have attached a line to. Lesson #4 wear your bloody tow belt *always*, don't stuff it in a hatch on the off chance you need it. Ok I should have learned that last time... Fisherman was back in the water but we had blown close enough to the point that he could stand up so all was good. I really wasn't worried because I knew he wasn't going to blow out into the Southern Ocean or anything. I guess I wasn't much help but they seemed to appreciate a calm presence who at least acted like he knew what he was doing. As I left I said, "Remember, belly, butt, feet. Practice it."
If it had been necessary, I suppose I could have tried to pump his kayak - I don't think it would have been practical to try to X-rescue and dump it out through that little hatch. Other options if he had been out further? Have him hold onto his friend's kayak and try to tow the two of them? There is no way I would have let him up on my back deck. In N. America, spring is a real danger-time because the air gets warm but the water is still near freezing and people head out not dressed for the water. You have to get them out of the water right away. I guess the only option in that situation would have been to raft-up, get him lying down on the kayak to keep his centre of gravity low then hang out until someone fetched us. But maybe one of you has some good ideas.
Bottom line: kayaks with no deck lines, no tow point, no flotation, and dodgy hatches, suck.