Eskimo Rescue (Recovery)
In terms of efficiency, the Eskimo recovery is then next best thing to a roll, since the capsized paddler doesn't have to come out of the boat. In practice, the Eskimo recovery is used far more often in learning situations than in actual conditions. We like to teach it because it helps beginners get over their fear of being upside down in a kayak. Also, it's a great help to people who are learning to roll or to execute extreme braces, since they are bound to fail many times before success is consistent.
Here's how it works. When you capsize, the first thing to do is remain calm. Lean forward (kiss the deck!), tuck the paddle in your armpit, and reach up above the water surface with both arms. Bang against the hull (three times is the common signal to let people know you want to be rescued), and then move your hands back and forth in a wide arc along the hull. Keep your arms about six inches away from the hull (see photo). In order to reduce the chance of having your hand injured by the rescue boat, your hands should be held perpendicular to the hull, not parallel to it. As the rescuer paddles up to the capsized boat, the relative position of the two boats will determine the type of Eskimo rescue used. The two types are the Eskimo Bow Rescue and the Eskimo Paddle Rescue.
Bow Rescue Variation
The bow variation is used when the bow of the rescuer's boat is maneuvered to contact your hull within reach of your hands. It works best if the rescue boat is about ninety degrees to the capsized boat, because at that angle, there is little chance that the capsized paddler can pull the rescue boat off balance. But don't waste time fine-tuning your angle of approach while your buddy is counting fishes! As the capsized paddler rescuer's grabs the rescuer's bow, the rescuer should use a support stroke (e.g., sculling) to maintain stability.
Paddle Rescue Variation
The paddle variation is used when the two kayaks are parallel. The rescuer moves to the mid section of the your capsized kayak and puts the paddle across both kayaks so that you can reach up between the kayaks and pull yourself up by the paddle shaft. The rescuer must take care not to extend the paddle beyond the capsized kayak. If this happens, the capsized paddler may grab the end of the paddle shaft rather than the middle, and would not get adequate support for the recovery.
The capsized paddler (with suddenly limited sight range) will not immediately know which type of Eskimo rescue will be done and it should not matter. When you feel the bow or paddle of the rescuer, grab what is offered to you, support yourself and use a hip snap to get your boat under you. Be sure to take the time to get your arms in front of your body before coming up, to avoid shoulder injury.
The Eskimo rescue has limited effectiveness in real conditions because it is rare that a paddler will be aware, at the moment of unexpected capsize, that another paddler who knows how to do an Eskimo rescue is in position to do the job. Accordingly, a paddler who knows how to roll will roll and a paddler who does not roll will perform a wet exit. Even so, when conditions were right we have seen Eskimo rescues work wonderfully well (I'll never forget that time on the river).
The Trapped Paddler rescue is a variation of the Scoop rescue, to be used with a paddler who has not exited the boat but who is unable to execute an Eskimo rescue. Another name for this rescue is the "Hand of God." This is the rescue to use with an unconscious or incapacitated paddler. We all hope that we never have to use this rescue, but it is important to practice it, in view of the potential seriousness of situations in which it would be appropriate.
This rescue is essentially the Scoop rescue, with a few variations. First, don't waste time maneuvering bow to bow. As you approach the capsized boat, lean out and grab the capsized hull firmly. Don't waste time by overshooting the boat! Reach across the middle of the hull and grab the gunwale on the far side. Reach as far as you must: the capsized boat will support you. Now pull the far side toward you as you simultaneously push the near side of the capsized boat down and away. When the capsized paddler's body is on the surface, grab the PFD and push the paddler's body back onto the rear deck. Now continue rotating the capsized boat to an upright position. Stabilize the boat as you attend to the paddler. If this rescue is necessary, then it is likely that the paddler will need additional help. One person should be assigned to stabilize the boat, while someone else attends to the paddler's needs.