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safety advice, please

Posted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 10:44 am
by gbellware
I am planning another Florida Keys backcountry kayak/camping trip in October. I will be on the tail end of hurricane season, spending several nights on uninhabited keys, never more than 3 miles offshore, but entirely unsupported. I will plot all of my waypoints and have Bluewater loaded on my GPS. I don't plan on being on the water after dark, but must prepare for that possibility. I hope to use wind power to make approximately 20 miles per day, but need to be flexible (if the winds don't blow my way and I don't make my planned destination campsites in time).

I am asking for advice on safety equipment (besides pump, floatation for me and my Klepper quattro, whistle, gps, extra paddle, strobe) for the trip. I will have internet access through cellular hotspot on my cellphone, but that may be unreliable on some of the remote keys.

Weather radio? Marine comm radio? I am a complete novice with both. Are there other safety considerations that I should make? I am an experienced kayaker but a humble student of safety, all advice is welcomed.


Re: safety advice, please

Posted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 2:06 pm
by ChrisO

Just of the top of my head, some suggestions based on my sea kayaking with BASK (Bay Area Sea Kayakers):
PFD with pockets for radio, snax etc. Wear it, period.
Dress for immersion: Farmer John style wetsuit? Especially when sailing, allow for the odd dunking and spending some time in the water.
Spray skirt.
Paddle float. Practice self rescues!
Daylight signaling: Loud whistle (only works if someone is nearby...), signaling mirror, maybe smoke flares. Attached to PFD.
Night time signaling: 12ga flare gun is the best. Your strobe is certainly more practical.
Radio: Submersible marine radio, such as the Uniden MHS75. I have one, nice and small. Fits into PFD pocket.
Compass, mounted on deck.
Charts in a waterproof sleeve, such as NRS Hydrolock cases. Even with a GPS, in case the batteries die etc.
White light, NOT strobe for night time paddling. This is required by law. Strobe is ONLY a distress signal. Attach to PFD.
Rescue knife in case you get tangled in a line when sailing. Attach to PFD.
Bail out bag with dry clothes, 1st Aid kit, cell phone, water and food. This needs to be a dry bag, clipped to the kayak. See Chuck's earlier post and video.
Personal locating beacon, such as the ACR ReQLink. Nice (essential?) when going solo.
Spot, or Delorme Inreach satellite communicators to be able to let people know where you are and that you are OK. Used in Race to Alaska. Very nice when going solo.

Chris O.

Re: safety advice, please

Posted: Mon Aug 24, 2015 10:08 am
by gbellware
Thanks so much for your thoughtful suggestions.
I will look for the marine radio, I think I will have fun at West Marine. I think I will pass on using Spot, unless someone has strong opinion otherwise.
Re: strobe light. Is it permissible to use a strobe to make me more visible during the day? As I will need to use busy channels when I go from the gulf to the Atlantic side of the Keys I would like to improve my chances of being seen by the MUCH larger fishing boats. This will only be a worry for a few of the 100 miles I plan to paddle. I know the strobe is really intended as a distress signal at night, but can I use it during the day in channels?
As for personal thermal protection, this is really not an issue in October when I am planning the trip. Water and air temps are both in the 80's.
My two biggest concerns are lightning and capsize. Not sure if there is anything I can do about lightning except the common sense stuff we all know. Capsize is another story. I would love to hear of anyone's experience with a double quattro going over as I have never done it, deliberately or otherwise. I will sail from the rear seat of my Klepper with the Kayaksailor 1.6 + jib. All of the remaining volume below decks is filled with dry bags, some camping gear that can survive immersion, water, cart, fishing tackle. Pump is tethered to cockpit. Full spray skirt, all sponsons fully inflated. I have sailed these waters before and the only time I had any worry was in 20+ knot wind and following seas when I wondered (yikes) what would happen if I broached in the trough of a wave I surfed down. Never came close to happening. But if I got caught in a squall or found conditions that did put me over what would happen? This might sound lazy but I really don't want to deliberately dump the boat under fully loaded conditions. I would appreciate advice here.


Re: safety advice, please

Posted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 3:15 pm
by ChrisO

If you really want to be visible in day light, look into a High Visibility green hat/cap ( that safety green color).
Problem with using a strobe is that it will be (mis)interpreted as a distress signal, not just by other boaters, but also USCG and water police...
In general it is YOUR responsibility to stay out of the way of all sail and power boats. You can often stay out of their way by staying in the shallow area's adjacent to the channels, and crossing only when clear and as quickly as possible. You will need charts!
We had a good demonstration of this when we crossed the San Pablo Straight crossing recently with a large group of kayakers: About 2 miles across, 1.8 knot flood and high speed ferries running between Vallejo and San Francisco (these puppies clip along at 36 knots or so...), in addition to the normal odd ship and pleasure boats. We really kept our eyes peeled!

Chris O.

Re: safety advice, please

Posted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 5:30 pm
by gbellware
Thanks, I appreciate the advice. Still looking for info from anyone experienced putting an A2, quattro or otherwise, over in open water and what to do when that happens.
Sounds like some crazy traffic in San Francisco, thankfully I won't be dealing with ferries...yikes!. The challenge I feel regarding visibility is specific to the Keys. The channels between the Gulf and Atlantic are mostly man made, some less than 50 yards wide, and they are highly trafficed, with peak activity coinciding with ebb/slack tides, by private and commercial fishing boats. In clear weather I can fend for myself. But when weather is a factor I feel really vulnerable.
Thanks for your help,

Re: safety advice, please

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 10:53 pm
by Paul
I would take the Quattro out and purposely capsize and practice reentering. If you do this in conditions that you may be paddling in, your confidence will increase.

What about sharks? I've wondered what I'd do if all of a sudden a shark tried to attack the kayak, thinking it was a seal. In Happy Isles of Oceana Thoreau had a shotgun in case a shark or gator attacked, if I recall correctly.

What if you're camping in a remote area and lightening storm passed through? Assuming your tent has graphite poles, would you leave your tent?

Re: safety advice, please

Posted: Sat Aug 29, 2015 2:03 pm
by gbellware
Thanks for the advice, not sure I really want to dump the boat, especially in the conditions and with full gear, which would be the only way to get a realistic experience. Still looking for someone who has actually done it, maybe I am just being lazy.

Thanks for the reference to Thoreau's book, I will put it on my reading list.

And camping at water's edge with lightning striking I would (and have) abandoned the tent to find some better cover in the mangroves where at least I would not the the tallest thing out there. I know there are a lot of different opinions here. The only thing I am sure of is that I want off the water asap.

Sharks? Yes, there are plenty of stories about shark/kayaker encounters. None have ended badly in the Florida Keys. Most of the time it involves kayak fishing, tuna, and deep channels. There is rumored to be a 20 foot hammerhead in the 7-mile channel just east of Bahia Honda but he (she?) would be the only shark bigger than my kayak, for what that's worth. BTW, I paddle quite a bit in the Everglades near Boynton Beach where a moron kayaker in an inflatable ventured into a water trail that is known to have aggressive alligators. One attacked her and she was lucky to be able to scramble to safety and get rescued by 911. Darwin was almost right...again. ... -1.1389378

Re: safety advice, please

Posted: Wed Oct 14, 2015 5:39 pm
by DLee
Greg, I just saw your post about capsizing the AEII with sail. Sorry I didn’t see that before... a little late right?

Perhaps not... I have not capsized full of gear but with a lot of stuff and many different sail combos. The result is always about the same. Before you capsize make sure everything you don’t want to lose is tied into the boat. Everything. After capsize, release the main sheet on the sail first so it won’t catch water while righting. Go to the lee side of the boat and climb up onto the hull or shimmy up from the end if you need to in cowboy style.

At the center of the boat reach over the edge so you can grab the coaming. Pull the boat up by using your body weight any way that you can. It will move slowly but it will eventually move. Keep the open cockpit and sail on the windward side so the wind can help in righting the boat. If the sail is catching too much water and preventing you from righting the boat you’ll need to dive under the boat and lower the sail.

There will be a nice cavity of air in the cockpit where you can regroup if weather is bad outside. Especially lower the sail if weather is bad - you don’t want it blowing right back over on you. Just dive under the boat, release the halyard and pull the sail 'up' (you'll most likely be inverted) into the down position.

The boat will be much less stable and filled with water when you get it righted. Climb up onto the boat cowboy style from the stern and start bailing from either inside the cockpit or sitting on the back deck. Back deck may be more stable at this point. An electric pump is essential, a canvas gallon bucket moves a ton of water quickest of all but the pump will suck it all out from around the frame members. I have seen the pump that I own at West Marine stores - it runs on 3 'D' cells batteries which last for a really long time and several pump outs.

The main thing to remember is keep calm. The boat is solid and very buoyant, you'll have plenty of time to straighten the situation out and it's a very straightforward, instinctual maneuver.

Good luck and full sails.


Re: safety advice, please

Posted: Wed Oct 14, 2015 6:27 pm
by DLee
If you end up at a West Marine or similar to buy an electric pump, also pick up a large distress flag. It's an orange rectangular with a large black square and circle on the flag. Display this any way that you like as a distress signal. Dye marker is also an excellent signal for anything above you. Flares are debatable for a kayak in general, probably not a great idea for a canvas, wood and rubber boat. But in an extreme emergency may be worth having. Signal mirror can fit in your vest with the knife and whistle or manual (blown) fog horn (it's a little bigger than the whistle though).

Channel sixteen (16) is your emergency distress channel. State your name, location and situation. If you have a problem but it is not yet life threatening but you want to alert authorities start your call with Pan-Pan three (3X) times, then vessel name, location, situation... If you are in distress and danger of losing your life call MAYDAY three times, then vessel name, location and situation. Repeat either Pan-Pan or Mayday until you get a response on channel 16.

For Example: "Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan, this is the sailing kayak Courageous, I have capsized my vessel off the west side of Sandy island near buoy 4, weather is making re-entry of vessel difficult" Wait for response then repeat.

Use the Security call (pronounced 'Securitay') to alert traffic in the area that you will be crossing the channel or passing an active terminal. You can use Channel 16 for this but you can also go to the ship channel - 13 - for general info like this. Everyone that has a radio turned on 'MUST' monitor channel 16.

For example: "Securitae, Securitae, there is a 17 foot sailing kayak crossing the channel at Dead man's bend"

Listening to channel 13 will give you a pretty good idea of what all the 'big boys' are doing.


Re: safety advice, please

Posted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:30 pm
by robonaboat
I generally agree with Dennis on my only capsize experience in my LHFK quattro, with BSD 18 sq ft sail, sans outriggers, in warm subtropical seawater.. I was intending to do it for practice on the day but it happened unexpectedly in wind about only 10 knts, side on to waves, whilst distracted. Boat was completely full of drybags and flotation bags, with spay cover on, front cockpit funnel closed. I was solo in stern cockpit seat. I posted the entire experience a year or two ago under a sailing thread, but in case you can't find it here's what I remember that's a bit different to what Dennis wrote. In those conditions the boat righted slowly but easily with the sail still set and didn't go over again. Reentry was indeed easy, and I found only a couple of inches of water in the bottom, and I could have sailed away as is, but I took 10 minutes all up to empty it with my equipment. First a little 1 quart bailer, then hand operated kayak pump, then sponge. A bucket would have been too big for that amount of water and an electric pump nice but not needed. However, different conditions, or different set up, maybe different result. It was a shock to find myself unexpectedly upsidedown underwater, and took a few seconds to remember to release the string of the funnel top of the velcro spraycover. I didn't have to open the velcro because on releasing the string closure at the top I fell straight out. Warning, one of my sandals caught as I was falling out and needed a kick to release me. I don't wear sandles in the boat anymore. And you can't hold your breath for long if immersion is sudden and unexpected. Do go through the procedure in your mind from time to time while you're out there so you're ready for it. Do read my original post if you can and ask if you want to know more. I've just got back from 13 days sailing around and camping in Moreton Bay, Qld, Australia. So interesting to read posts from Dennis. Keep them coming mate. Roberto

Re: safety advice, please

Posted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 12:20 am
by DLee
Roberto, nice to see you back!

I imagine our two accounts are a very good description of the difference between using the spray cover and not... Because I was not using one and a wide open cockpit just scoops a tremendous amount of water into the boat when she rolls back up.

I've had a lot of fun sailing my new MK1/BSD 36HP rig without outriggers using Mark's new hike out seats. -check the sailing threads- They make a HUGE difference in righting and keeping the boat stable while underway. The trickiest moments are going downwind - for sure. I think you would enjoy them tremendously if you feel like playing without the outriggers more often. The water is starting to chill here so my outriggers might go back on... hoping to go out tomorrow, will make the call after I feel the water. Ha. Or maybe I'll throw the dry suit in the car as well.


Re: safety advice, please

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2015 1:12 pm
by DoiNomazi
I don't want to sound like a smart Alec, but the beauty of sailing with a folder is to avoid capsizing. Plan your trip accordingly, the adequate planning is part of the fun... :)

Cheers and enjoy your trip(s) without fear.