All At Sea!

How to get back to shore if it all goes wrong!

This page has been taken and adapted from a forum post about paddling on the sea in a “play boat” style sit on top kayak but it suits all kinds of kayaks. Please read it & remember it.

There might come a day when you’re out there and the wind suddenly picks up from the shore that wasn’t forecast & suddenly every paddle stroke you take seems to do NOTHING & your paddling faster, breathing heavier, wearing yourself out all the time, the spray from the paddling and off wave tops is getting into your eyes which is salty! you can’t see now & your eyes sting but if you stop paddling the kayak will stop in the wind as your body has become a sail or wind breaker! The Kayak will be turned sideways almost immediately, wobble in the swell & possibly tip over as you rub your eyes and possibly lose balance! You start looking around to see if your actually moving forwards, your heart beats faster as you begin to panic! “shit! will I get back in?” is my phone charged? is my VHF on? have I charged it? what channel? who else is around me? is everything leashed? and so on…. all these thoughts WILL run through your head and that’s only off the top of my head going by experience!

DO NOT PANIC! Panic kills!

If you do end up in this situation keep calm, look down at the bubbles appearing around the kayak from the waves and spray and you’ll hopefully be relieved to see them slowly heading towards the stern (back) of your kayak so keep your head down, maintain a steady paddling style with strokes that don’t dig too deep so they push the kayak off course and keep breathing properly. Look up every now & then to check your direction & you’ll eventually get back to shore safely. Paddling too hard will send the kayak into all sorts of trouble so keep calm and controlling at all times.

If you feel you can paddle back to shore then go for it but if you feel your too fatigued then do not hesitate to call for assistance! If you’ve got a dry mobile then carefully call for help. If you got a VHF radio, give an “ALL SHIPS, ALL SHIPS, ALL SHIPS” call or even MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY or PAN, PAN, PAN if you’re completely stuck! Give your approximate location, distance from shore and whatever else you can give (this is why solas tape all over the kayak and boxes is a great idea as it can be seen for up to 3 miles away if a beam of light hits it from a torch or lamp). This is where a flare can really come into it’s own as all it takes is one light in the sky to get help scrambled 🙂

Do not try to swim ashore unless your close enough to risk letting go of the kayak! You need to be out of the water ASAP as hypothermia can sneak up on you catching you unaware and will slowly shut your body down and kill you. If you try to swim while holding onto the kayak with all it’s equipment on you’re going to treble your time in the water and wear yourself out a lot quicker as well as lose your body temperature faster. The kayak is your life raft so stay with it! Get back on it, if you can’t then get as high up as you can onto it so you can paddle with your legs to at least keep warm if nothing else!

Please remember to check whether you should really be out there in the first place! If you’d just slowed down and done a little checking up on the net there’d be no need for all the hassle & possibly loss of life! There’s always another day ahead to get out there so there’s no need to go out when it’s dodgy and especially alone! This is exactly why we push “paddle buddies”. Safety in numbers is paramount!

Stay safe out there!