I do most of my paddling alone on an inland lake in North Carolina -- though I wish I lived about 150 miles closer to the saltmarshes and blackwater streams that I love. My lake is pretty benign; your river may not be. But there might be other, safer places for you to paddle alone. (I started out on a small reservoir.)
There was a guy in a class I took who couldn't swim. Didn't seem to bother him too much. So I think that you could paddle alone too if you really, really practiced being in the water wearing flotation -- so that you DON'T panic if you're ever out of your boat. You'd need to get comfortable. Ideally, you could just float and paddle yourself to shore if you ever had to.
The thing I try to think about is the margin of safety -- keeping it high, reducing risk as much as I can.
Winter paddles to check on an eagle's nest are the riskiest ones for me. I dress for cold water, take an entire change of clothes in a drybag, carry a cell phone and stay near shore. I figure that if I capsize I have at least 3 options: and roll or swim to shore are preferred. I just try not to be stupid.
Like some other people who replied to your post, I love paddling alone, being in nature, and emptying my head of every thought except what I'm seeing around me.
Ginger in NC
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