Kayak Instruction Excellence – Kayak Safety – Scenario

Kayak Safety – Scenario

Kayak Instruction Excellence

Kayaking Safety – Scenario

Andree Hurley

Kayaking is all the rage these days and you found a used kayak through an ad in the
newspaper. Excited to start paddling, you notice it’s a beautiful evening with flat calm water. You throw the kayak into the truck and head for the beach.

The paddling is great – the lighthouse in the distance endearing – so you decide to paddle around the point to check out the sunset.

Once it begins to get darker you decide to head back to the car – only it’s hard to get around the point. You hadn’t figured on the current – practically invisible to the untrained eye.

You are paddling hard to round the point but not making any headway – and somehow you flip over.

The current carries you to a tide rip in the channel, and you realize that without appropriate clothes and your personal floatation device (PFD), you might not survive for long. After all, the water is about 45 degrees. You wave your paddle frantically for help, and hug an air inflated float bag that has exited your kayak.

Luckily for you someone called for a rescue and soon you are in an ambulance, heading for the hospital with only mild hypothermia.

The next evening you are warm and dry and look out over the water. You see that the entire channel is covered by a thick cover of radiation fog. The ships are moving slowly and blaring their deep fog horns. What if you had been out tonight instead of last night?

This story is truer than one might think – so how do we get the word out to the new paddlers that paddling is fun but also takes caution and expertise?

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Take a lesson.
  • Wear the personal floatation device (PFD) – don’t leave it in the car, in the boat or on the boat. Think of it like you think of a seatbelt (hopefully you wear it!)
  • Pay attention to local conditions – think of the what ifs
  • “Paddle float self rescue device”, bilge pump, sponge
  • Dress for the water – wear wool, synthetics, neoprene, nylon or gortex shells, a dry suit. If you get too hot – just splash yourself!
  • If you are the expert, teaching your friends, teach them all the safety elements. Think of passing on information like the game of telephone. Something will be lost along the path of communication, so make sure you pass on the main points of safety
  • Coast guard regulations – the coast guard requires every craft has:
    • One noise making device (whistle)
    • A light (I carry a headlamp and a strobe)
    • Three pyrotechnic devices (eg. flares)
    • I keep a compass with a mirror in my PFD pocket as the mirror doubles as a signaling device
    • VHF/Weather radio – monitor channels 16, 9 and your local traffic station
    • Cell phone
    • GPS – You call on the VHF that you are in the fog, and someone asks you for your exact position

Is this beginning to seem like a lot? Some of us paddlers collect gear over years, and scour the land for used equipment.

Serious paddlers take even more items for a short stint on the water. Energy bars, sunscreen, a knife, water (water, water, water), extra clothing, and warm hats.

Finally – file a float plan – tell someone where you are going, leave a note on your car.

Paddle safely and help spread the word!

Copyright 2007 Andree Hurley

Andree is an instructor trainer with the American Canoe Association. She is the
owner of Kayak Instruction Excellence in Port Townsend, WA.

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