Advice re recent mishap......

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Albatross
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Advice re recent mishap......

Post by Albatross »

First post on the board. Briefly: went out on my own on the sea for the first time last week. Short trip from Sidmouth to Ladram Bay aand back was planned. Wind was onshore as it was blowing generally towards the WNW. Wind speed average 12mph, gusts of 14mph. Air temperature 10.5C. Using a Gumotex Safari. Had my mobile (in ziplock, in dry bag), but not VHF or PLB. Planned to stay close to shore there and back.

It was hard going, as I soon found the swell was hard going, so I opted to stay a bit more offshore (around 300m, but on the way back - as I was trying to cut across the mouth of the bay - I was at max 500m offshore). I almost reached Ladram but felt overheated and unwell (drysuit with 3 layers under, and a neoprene hat, as well as neoprene shoe things on top of dry suit feet). As I found out later, it was good that I had so much on under the drysuit. I had a bunch of things in the Safari.....drybag, carry bag, pump, spare paddle, throw bag, first aid kit, etc.

Short story is, I turned back, and since I was not feeling super well due to the heat, I chose to land a half mile earlier, and walk the rest of the way (benefit of a Gumotex is you can deflate it and stick it in its carry rucksack!), give myself a break and then do some kayak surfing. The swell was about 3-4 feet by this time, near the beaches anyway. Anyway, I picked a sandy spot and headed in. I surfed the first breaking wave in, and enjoyed it. But it was still around 50m-75m out by my reckoning. I didn't see the second wave coming as it broke right before it got to me, and I went for a swim. This is where I found out:

1. An inflatable MOVES! It was quickly blown away from me faster than I could try and reach it. Question: should I get a boat to person leash? It moved quickly because of the wind, and this made me think that had I been farther out to sea, this would have been really dangerous.
2. A drysuited kayaker can't swim! Or at least, not easily. The best I could do was ride the waves in. I was bobbing easily. And I was pretty OK temperaturewise.....hence my comment above about being thankful I put so many layers on. I now realise I could have used my paddle to help me move forward (I have a paddle leash which is why I did not lose my paddle).
3.) Lash everything! i had forgotten to lash down my drybag, and had to go after it before retrieving the kayak. Thankfully it didn't move half as much as the kayak, which seemed to be on a mission of its own.
4.) Communication........only later and with a mixture of shame and fear I realised that had this all happened further away from the coast, I would have been bobbing around for significantly longer. And may have wanted to call for help. And calling for help on a mobile in a swell is not a good strategy. So: should I always go out with VHF and PLB? And even if I am only doing some kayak surfing on the coast, or only for trips?
4a.) Communication 2: shore contact? My wife was my shore contact. I had promised to check in on the hour, every hour. The swim almost made me miss my check in. And had I done so, the next step for her was to call the Coastguard.......which would have resulted in an unnecessary SAR potentially. So shore contact or no shore contact? I can't imagine going without one is a good idea, but what if it's impossible to contact at the agreed contact points?
5.) Solo? This has made me rethink going out solo. But the problem is......I don't know anyone else who would be willing to kayak with me. Hence why I ended up going solo this time (during the summer, I generally have family on the beach and don't stray too far, always stay within visible range).
ChrisJK
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Re: Advice re recent mishap......

Post by ChrisJK »

Hi Albatross

I started kayaking roughly 5 years ago when I bought a Gumotex Solar as celebration of having lived 60 years,

I love it as it is stable ,comfortable and spacious but it has it's limitations and I tend only to go on the sea within the confines of a large sheltered bay and or in pretty benign conditions I will head along sections of the coast. In a strong offshore wind an inflatable is as vulnerable as a child on an inflatable pink Flamingo. On a calm warm sunny day I can drop anchor in a sandy bay and go for a swim or relax in the boat away from a crowded beach.

A year or so later I joined a local club and turned up for a trip travelling with an incoming tide in the upper tidal reaches of a local estuary and the coach said "your not going in that, but you can borrow my sea kayak" I was very glad as I'd have been petrified travelling at 4Kn plus with an opposing wind..

So firstly carefully observe the weather, wind direction and check if the tides are Spring or neap, whether they are coming in or going out and which way the tidal stream is running with that tide.

Secondly accept the limitations of your boat and try to use it in optimum circumstances.

If you think hey I love this but want to explore more go on a course or join a local club.
ChrisJK
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Re: Advice re recent mishap......

Post by ChrisJK »

Albatross
I do sometimes use a surfers leash on the Gumotex and attach any dry bags to the back of the seat.
Phone round my neck in an aquapac.
I have found inflatables get broached very easily and scuff on sand so I avoid surfing.
Short wave radio is a good idea but it needs to be licensed and technically you should do a course and exam.

I now have a couple of sea kayaks and tend to paddle on the sea in company for company and safety reasons.
Albatross
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Re: Advice re recent mishap......

Post by Albatross »

Thanks both for your replies! I'm signed up for a sea kayak course, which will be good. I haven't purchased a sit-in as I have zero space in which to store it (rewrite: I DO have some space but I would have to endure a Cold War scenario from my wife if I were to use that space to store a kayak!).

Will go for aquapac and leash.

I hear you about surfing, but the Safari is great at this and a lot of fun, hence why I do it =)
ChrisJK
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Re: Advice re recent mishap......

Post by ChrisJK »

Ok thanks the safari is shorter than the Solar.
If you join a club sea boats can be hired at reasonable rates
Best to keep the peace at home.
There are some foldable options and three part sectional boats out there.
Check out threads on the forum with keywords in the search facility
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Strad
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Re: Advice re recent mishap......

Post by Strad »

I think you found the biggest issue with inflatables and big expanses of water - they are very wind dependent.

Tides, wind and water conditions are an art form on the sea, can't recommend finding a club or others to help you learn enough.
Old School?? I miss my AQII..
Graham Stradling
robhorton
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Re: Advice re recent mishap......

Post by robhorton »

Albatross wrote:
Mon May 02, 2022 7:55 pm
Question: should I get a boat to person leash?
I'm not a fan of (paddle or person) leashes generally, mainly due to the risk of entanglement, particularly in surf. I do sometimes clip my towline to the boat if I'm by myself though and getting separated is a concern. I think it's one of those things where you need to weigh up the risks and decide for yourself - an inflatable is more prone to blowing away than a rigid sea kayak (although they can still move out of reach very quickly). Do be aware of the entanglement risk though, and have something available to cut it quickly if necessary.
mrcharly
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Re: Advice re recent mishap......

Post by mrcharly »

Use a paddle leash - but attach it to the boat. It is rare for someone to let go of their paddle when falling in. the risk of entanglement is not that great, the boat gets yanked away from you so fast.

I think that inflatables are very hard to remount, and that is a major flaw in their use. A common technique for dealing with overheating (and you were very overdressed for the conditions), is to roll the boat - or for SoTs to take a brief swim and remount. If remounting is difficult, then this becomes a big problem.

Put RYA SafeTrx on your phone and set up a course every time you go out. If you aren't back by your ETA, the system will send a message to your emergency contact. This works even if your phone is out of signal or dead. Your emergency contact can notify emergency services and send them your SafeTrx details, giving them access to much of your recorded movements.
seawolf856
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Re: Advice re recent mishap......

Post by seawolf856 »

Hi Albatross, welcome to the forum, you have come to the right place for help and advice if you intend to continue with your sea kayaking career and I hope your maiden voyage hasn't put you off for life!
Your original post contains a lot of detail, which shows that you had sensibly gone through some kind of premeditated preparation and risk assessment and you had taken many precautions before just launching into the unknown. That is very admirable but in my opinion you made one particularly potentially disastrous mistake as an inexperienced sea kayaker and that is - you went out on your own!! Even experienced sea kayakers tend not to venture out alone and if they do they will have a great deal of boat handling experience and will have a detailed knowledge of wind, tides and coastal navigation. Sorry to be so blunt but the sea is no place for solo novices.
You seem to have dismissed 500m as 'being close to shore'. If your estimate is accurate, 500m is a fair distance off shore and which is far enough to prevent a swim to safety in a dry suit, not accounting for the effect of wind and tide.
I am not going to go into the argument about inflatable sea kayaks but ChrisJK's first reply and his encounter with the coach who said "you're not going in that.." just about sums it up for me.
Anyway, I'm glad you got away with it and you have decided to sign up for a sea kayak course. I hope that involves you being able to paddle a conventional sit-in sea kayak and that will convince you to swap your wife for one :-)
Some comments on your questions:
1. All boats move surprisingly quickly in any wind or swell. NOT losing contact with your boat in a capsize situation is hammered into you the more you practice sea kayak rescues but even then it is possible if you capsize in really rough conditions that the boat gets washed away from you before you can grab it. If you have buddies with you (who are practiced at rescue procedures) losing contact with your boat is inconvenient but not fatal as it might be if you are solo.
2. You had a dry suit with layers underneath (and presumably a PFD) so you were dressed for immersion and that was a very good decision. Overheating in a dry suit can be a real problem but you can either paddle slower or splash water over your face/head to cool you down. Swimming in a dry suit with a PFD on and boots is very difficult and has been discussed elsewhere on this forum. One word of advice based on a recent experience, ALWAYS check that your zips are fully closed before setting off. if you capsize and only then realise your suit is filling with water your only option may be to cut a hole in your very expensive dry suit - oh yes, carry a knife too!
3. Assume everything will be lost unless you lash it to yourself or your boat.
4. Communication is a top level safety measure. Retrieving a mobile phone from your PFD pocket and then trying to remember who to call for help while you are bobbing around scared to death is not ideal. Modern mobiles with touchscreens are difficult if not impossible to use with wet hands. VHF radios are only effective short range BUT most areas of the UK coastline has marine traffic who will respond to a call on VHF channel 16. PLBs are now small and relatively cheap - buy and carry a PLB. In fact carry all your communications devices no matter what type of trip you are going on. You may even need help on the beach if you get injured landing in surf.
4a. Always tell somebody where you are going - YES a shore contact is vitally important. That can be the wife or the coastguard. Get into the habit of letting the coastguard know when you are going to sea, in my experience they are usually very pleased to know you are out there on their patch. You then just need to let them know when you return safely to shore. If things go wrong or your land contact calls them, they will already have some idea who they are looking for and where.
5. Solo? - Definitely not at this early stage of your sea kayaking adventures. Join a club and find some like minded people to paddle with. You don't have to be best friends with them all (we can be a strange bunch) but there is definitely safety in numbers out at sea.

Good luck on your sea kayak course. Please come back after you have been on it and let us know how your outlook has changed.
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