There’s nothing more important than keeping safe on the water. The environment can change in an instant and being prepared and having the right safety equipment will help you return safely from your trip. Each State has their own maritime safety department and Queensland’s Department of Mains Road and Transport provides an excellent check list that will help you get prepared for your next trip on the water, with whichever vessel you choose. We have also put together a Kayak Guide, which contains some useful information on kayaking and keeping safe.
Here are our top 10 tips:
1. Plan your trip and choose suitable launch locations
Planning your trip and launching locations are essential to having an enjoyable and safe trip. Boat ramps are a great place for beginners to launch their kayaks as all facilities for an easy launch are there. Although, when locating a launch spot be aware of tidal restrictions for that location, just because you can launch at high tide does not mean you will be able to get back out at low tide.
2. Work out tidal predictions before heading out
Are you planning to head out into tidal waters? Working out when and where you are paddling is always tricky but if you check the tides your trip can be made a whole lot easier and safer. If you are launching in tidal areas, try and plan your trips and destinations with the tides. Plan to go with the tides as there can be nothing worse than being out for a few hours and trying to paddle back to your launching areas against a strong tide. Paddling against tides will tire you quickly.Check out the Queensland tide guide here .
3. Check the latest weather observations, predictions
Always check the weather before setting out for the day as it may have changed overnight and that could cause you to be put in an unsafe situation. Wind is also a good thing to consider as it can throw up some chop on the water which can be undesirable and if coupled with the tide, it can be very hard work paddling back. Just because it wasn’t windy at 9am when you launched doesn’t mean that the wind won’t pick up at midday and become unbearable. Always check your local weather reports before heading out.
4. Check that your boat is in good condition
Prior to putting your kayak on the water, operational check-ups should be carried out to keep your kayak in tip top condition. Conducting a visual inspection of the kayak for any noticeable holes, deformations or damages is good general practice and helps to ensure your own safety on the water.
If you notice any holes or deformations, it is a good idea to not place the kayak into water and make sure to attend to the issues as soon as possible before your next paddle trip.
5. Have an emergency plan and travel with a mate
You should never plan a trip if the weather is looking uncertain or is likely to change at a moment’s notice. Know your limitations of what you can handle and what your kayak can handle in regards to weather conditions. What is the strongest winds you can paddle in, how far away are you from shore?
If you by chance roll your kayak or fall out can you get back into it on your own. Practising this in a safe environment (someone’s pool or sheltered area) is a good way. The best case scenario is never paddle alone if it can be avoided.
6. Check and carry the right safety equipment
It is always a good idea to check you have all the required safety gear packed and ready to go before leaving for your trip. Life jackets are one of the best pieces of safety gear you can have whilst paddling. Get one that fits your style of paddling and body shape and ensure it is AS4758 approved.
But the most important tip we can give is ALWAYS BE SEEN. Wear bright clothes where possible and If you like to paddle between sunset and sunrise a torch is the minimum lighting requirement for kayaks in Queensland, but it is strongly recommended that you fit an all-round navigation light that can be seen from all directions, just don’t forget to keep the batteries always charged and bring spare ones if you intend to take longer night trips.
A VHF marine radio and mobile phone in a waterproof pouch is a great way to stay in contact with your paddle group or friend. But if heading out into open water or offshore it may be a good idea to consider taking an EPIRB or a PLB and know how to use them.
7. Choose the correct anchor for where you are going
A kayak anchor is a great accessory to make your fishing trip more enjoyable on your kayak, but it can also act as great bit of safety equipment. Having the right anchor for your kayak and the right anchor for where you are going is important for any emergency situation. A small and light kayak anchor is a great way to keep you in position over your favourite shallow freshwater fishing spot, although if you’re heading out into deeper water a slightly heavier anchor with long bit of rope can stop or slow your drift unexpectedly out to sea.
8. Know the boating rules
Just because you are in a kayak doesn’t mean that you don’t need to know or obey local regulations and boating rules on the water. We recommend that you familiarise yourself with international boating rules but here are some helpful tips to help you get started:
• Keep to the right (starboard) at all times
• Keep clear and give way to larger vessels
• Don’t paddle in the centre of the channel
• Understand navigation markers
• Cross paths safely and avoid shipping lanes or busy channels
9. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return
This may seem like a small thing but it could possibly save your life, always let someone know where you intend to launch and what time you will be back. This gives someone a chance to let authorities know where you have launched if you cannot be contacted or go missing so a search/rescue can be mounted.
10. Check and secure your load
Before heading off you should ensure the kayak is properly secured to you roof rack using appropriate roof racks or kayak carriers and secured with appropriately rated tie downs. If you are transporting your kayak on a trailer, ensure you have properly secure your kayak to the trailer and the trailer to your car. Secure all loose items in the boat – double check your tie downs once your kayak is loaded and secure all loose items in the car/trailer before leaving. Don’t leave loose items on your kayak whilst travelling. Most reliable tie downs I found are pull down straps like the sea to summit tie downs.
One of the best things about kayaking is sharing the experience with others. It is also one of the best ways you can stay safe and you will always have a helping hand if needed.
Don’t forget to check out our Kayak Guide here!