Sea Kayaking Safety Tips
When sea kayaking, safety should be your first and and most important consideration. That may sound like a clichÃ©, but it’s true, especially if you intend to come back in one piece, or avoid an expensive and embarrassing Coast Guard rescue at sea.
And toward that end, we’ve compiled a list of safety essentials that you should check off before every sea kayaking expedition. Ignore them at your own risk!
So here they are, in no particular order of importance:
Safety Tip #1: Wear the right clothing – one rule of thumb is to always dress for immersion. Even if it’s a warm sunny day, and it’s been years since you’ve rolled your kayak, make sure you’re dressed for the elements. And dress for comfort too. If hypothermia is even a remote possibility, dress in layers.
For an outer layer, wear either a drysuit or drytop and pants, or a paddling jacket and pants. For a thermal inner layer, go with a wetsuit or fleece top and bottom. To protect your head, bring along a good quality helmet, or a rain or sun hat. To keep your feet and hands warm, opt for a pair of neoprene booties and gloves. And it’s always a good idea to bring along a spare top and bottom sealed in a drybag just in case.
Safety Tip #2: Bring the right paddle gear – there’s nothing worse than being miles out to sea and realizing that you left something important back at your house. One part of having a seaworthy boat is being able to handle unpredictable situations when they arise (and believe me, sooner or later they will).
It’s a good idea to add extra float bags in each compartment to help keep your yak afloat in case of a roll. Also invest in a good quality neoprene sprayskirt to help seal the water out. Other essentials include a whistle (required by law in many areas), fresh drinking water, food, sunscreen, hand-held VHF radio (with spare batteries), boater’s knife, and a boat repair kit.
Safety Tip #3: Don’t forget the safety gear – Some essential safety items include a waterproof safety kit, flares, strobe light and reflectors, a foot-operated bilge pump, a paddle float, and some sort of tow system.
Safety Tip #4: Navigation and Logistics – Always be prepared and have a detailed float plan put together before you ever leave the house, especially if you’re paddling solo. Leave a copy of it with a friend or family member, and tell them what to do if you don’t return by a specific time. You’ll also want to bring along detailed maps with tide information, a compass, GPS unit, up to date weather information, and a waterproof chart bag.
Safety Tip #5: Training will keep you alive – you can have all the best safety gear in the world, but if you find yourself way out of your element and lost as to what to do next. Training and experience is the best safety net of all, and you should always work to improve your boating and seamanship skills whenever possible. If you’re new to sea kayaking, never go out alone on the water and try to “wing it.” Get with some experienced friends or join a club and go out with some seasoned paddlers. Listen and learn, and pay attention to everything they tell you.
Most people what to have fun on the water, and don’t want to contemplate the worst that can happen. But you won’t be having much fun if you’re slipping into hypothermia with miles to go to reach shore, or you’re hopelessly lost at sea and daylight is fading. As the old saying goes, expect the best and prepare for the worst, and you’ll come back from your expedition safe and sound, and with some great stories to tell your friends and family.