Safety (ongoing article)

Safety (ongoing article)

Safety is THE ‘buzz’ word in the sport of kayak fishing and is where you’ll hopefully spend some time reading as it really is very important. If your looking to get into the sport you’ll have to excuse the replies in Facebook groups and forums by people jumping in to tell you all about safety and their take on it. Some might say that’s a good thing but sadly sometimes people with little or no experience try to be helpful but give out the wrong advice!

A lot of kayak fishing is common sense. “if it looks dodgy then don’t go out” is an age old saying we’ve promoted over the years and its very simple! There’s been many a time I’ve packed the car full of gear, loaded the yak on the roof and then arrived 6 miles down the coast to see a sea full of white tops and choppy sea that wasn’t forecast so I’ve had to turn back in anger! The difference between me and others who would of ventured out but ‘stayed close in’ or just risked it anyway is the fact that after around 17 years in the sport I’m sat here typing this article and am very much alive!

There’s a lot of articles on the site which all give a little information on what to wear, what to use etc. so read up and gain the knowledge. This article is going to be blunt, straight to the point so you understand simply how dangerous the sport is so you can choose whether or not to invest in it as it is expensive to get into and needs a lot of thought so here goes;

Kayaks

Choose a kayak that suits you, your build and weight are paramount! Choose a kayak that’s either too light for you or too short and you’ll have the cork under water effect on the sea/water making it dangerous. At sea a kayak of 13ft (4 metres) is the norm. When you receive your new kayak one of the first jobs you should do is go around it and check all of the eyelets and haches for loose bolts as you’d be surprised at how many come loosely fitted so leak! All kayaks new or old should be periodically checked for leaks by doing a ‘water test’. Place the kayak on the ground with supports to keep it upright and simply fill it with water. You’ll find out if and where there’s any water leaking in.

Paddles

A paddle is to a kayak what an engine is to a car! Most kayak manufacturers throw in a cheap paddle to make a sale. Some are okay and some can prove poor so check it out prior to buying. Check the length too this is often overlooked. A guy 6ft plus with a 215cm paddle or a 5ft 2 guy with a 225cm paddle isn’t going to work and both will end up paddling wrongly and in turn develop poor skills. Not good at sea! Buy the right ‘engine’! Carbon fibre paddles can be expensive but do make a difference. The best way to find out is to go and visit a store and ask as many questions as you need too!

Attire

Wearing the correct gear is essential and PLEASE don’t listen to anyone saying ‘dress for the water temperature’. We spend 99.9% of our time ON a kayak not in the water and if we tip into the water the time we’re in it will be minimal as we don’t want to be in there do we? unless its nice and warm and we choose to swim to cool off or snorkel etc.

Wear what the weather says, on hot summer days a t-shirt and shorts on an inland lake or flat sea can be sufficient but ALWAYS carry all the gear you can in the car/van to suit the occasion so you can change and ALWAYS carry a hoodie or jacket for when you land and the chill hits. This is very important!

As advised by the RNLI and Coast Guard many years ago in a one to one meeting; If you do tip into the sea you’ve got ONE MINUTE of life per degree of water temperature so in the UK over Summer it can warm to around 17° and in Winter around 7° so if you decide to venture out over Winter this information is essential. In Winter the air is cold and damp and it WILL kill you if you aren’t dressed appropriately! If wearing a dry suit wear layers beneath it, not just a fleece onesie some manufafturers give out with their suits, wear a wicking t-shirt that lifts sweatfrom your skin. A hat is also an essential item as we lose around 80% of our bodies heat via it. The sun can also cause more damage than the cold too!

Equipment

This is the fun part of the sport. ‘Boys and their toys’ springs to mind lol. We love to rig our kayaks, add anchor trolleys, fish finders, compasses, outriggers, flag poles and loads of other essential items. This is great as long as they’re correctly fitted and sealed. A tube of silicone aquarium type sealant is a must have item believe it or not. It can be placed over any leaky eyelets/hatches.

Contact

If you plan to fish on the sea then a VHF radio should be bought as soon as you even think about getting into the sport! Having “ship to shore” contact is essential to us paddlers. Some ‘yak anglers’ prefer to be alone out there, so this is even more important. Personally a paddle buddy is THE most important and essential thing to have at sea. You don’t have to fish together or be on top of each other just stay in contact and be there in case anything happens. A tipped angler will be in shock at first, panic is a no no but it will happen. Having a calming friend to hand in this situation to help them back onboard is honestly a blessing. GET A PADDLE BUDDY!

A mobile phone is also essential, get the “what3words” app that can pin point you to within one metre anywhere on the planet via GPS. There’s many other apps too for tides, wind, forecasts etc. So mobiles are essential and are also a good back up if the VHF dies.

Float Plan

For every trip you plan you MUST make a float plan, even if it is just a few hours out in the usual spot! Tell the better half approximately when you’ll be on land (I text my wife as soon as I land on shore and have done for 17-20 years and she appreciates it). Tell the coast guard (CG66 scheme) where you are and your plans, they really appreciate it! Have the numbers saved in your phone for contacts the emergency services might need if it all goes wrong! Save the wife or girlfriend as ICE1 (in case of emergency) and so on. If you did forget to charge up and batteries are low switch the device off in case you need it for an emergency. Most trips are fine and especially if in company. Having nothing to be able to use in an emergency is both foolish and extremely dangerous! If you don’t have any means of contact, head in or don’t go out! If there’s other boats around you tell them you have no means of contact and ask them to keep an eye on you. Most people will be more than willing to assist as we’re all in the same boat lol (sorry).

Weather

Check all available forecasts hourly if you’ve planned a trip out. It can change without warning, and remember we live on an island surrounded by vast open seas and oceans where weather patterns develop suddenly. DO NOT take any risks just to get out it isn’t worth losing a life for a fish is it? Check out our weather articles too!

Common Questions/Answers

Q: Can I wear a wet-suit? A: YES! wet-suits were made to be worn in water. A 3mm titanium lined full suit will keep you warm on the kayak and if the wind eats into it you can put a cag on top to keep it out. If you tipped off into the sea the suit will slowly fill with cold water but that’ll warm to you’re body temperature and maintain body heat. Also its impossible to sink in one! You’ll be forced to lie on the water and a PFD over the top will force you onto you’re back if unconscious.

Q: how long of a kayak should I get? A: this depends upon you’re size and weight and also what you plan to do on a kayak? If you plan to fish on the sea then 12ft is minimal. You’ll see lots of “fishing kayaks” as you peruse eBay and the like. Many 9ft SOT kayaks with rod holders in that are deceitful and simply wrong! Yes you can fish from them but make sure its not a mile or 2 off your local coast and keep in close! The average kayak length for sea fishing is 13ft (4 metres).

Q: Are there any cheap yaks, setups, fish finders, etc. on offer? A: too many new comers to the sport are asking on social media how to get into the sport cheaply and ask for cheap gear. Our advice is to save up for better equipment. It’s you’re life at risk out there so why budget for cheap gear that could end it? All your gear should be the best you can afford, its all replaceable, are you?

Q: Should I buy a life jacket or PFD? (personal floatation device) A: A life jacket is made to keep you afloat until help arrives and are difficult to swim in due to their bulk. A PFD is made to keep you alfoat long enough to reach safety (a kayak or shore). You’ll notice that almost if not all PFD’s nowadays don’t come with a front pocket that protrudes. Avoid these as they can hinder kayak re-entry! So a PFD is what you need. However, personally being a Hobie Outback pedaller, usual PFD’s hinder pedalling so I wear a ‘crewsaver’ type self inflating life jacket. The chances of me tipping off an Outback are millions to one and If I did I’m a confident swimmer so would only ever use the life jacket if I lost the kayak and needed to stay afloat until found (never happened yet).

A crewsaver type life jacket, minimal wear but there if there’s an emergency

We’ll add to this over time so feel free to prompt for something you’d like to see added or think maybe I’ve missed out? It’s meant as a sort of loose guide to safety and not a black and white document of what should or shouldn’t be done. We’re all different and have different ways of doing things so any input is greatly appreciated.

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