This time we are showing you how we fix a worst-case scenario, as in “my kayak is sinking”! We are 4 kilometers offshore and we pulled of one of our hatches, leaving the front compartment exposed to the sea water. With a little leaning our kayak is flooding. It’s scary when doing this training exercise for the first time. We trained on this a lot in the safety of the harbor, and we advise you to get started in a safe environment when doing this training for the first time. You will be surprised how easy this rescue is. Of course, the harder the conditions, the harder it will get. But most important, we know that it is still possible to rescue ourselves when the worst thing happens. Follow up the top tips that we are giving in the video and you will do just fine. Make sure to carry a grab bag at all times, and make sure that you have duct tape with you. Trust us, this can happen (we have seen this happen only once, but still…) in real life.
Category: Technical Page 1 of 2
Let us talk you through a small upgrade on the deck (or perimeter) lines of your sea kayak. In the video you will see Sylvie putting some flexible tube (from the DIY store) over the deck line near the cockpit. The benefit of this is very simple and convenient. It allows you to put good tension on the deck lines as it should be, and still be able to put your fingers (even when wearing gloves) underneath it at the right place. This is where the rescuer will grab, and stabilize, your boat when performing an assisted rescue during your re-entry. Also, another kayaker can grab them to stabilize you in rough water when you want to pick something out of your day hatch. It’s also easier for you to operate your short tow line with the carabiner hooks. It’s nothing revolutionary but it comes in very handy!! Feel free to share your own “sea kayak upgrades”, we’re always on the lookout for new ideas! Paddle safe and take care of each other on the water!
After receiving a few questions from fellow paddlers about our survival time in cold water during a distress situation, we wanted to test things out. We often see other paddlers go on the water, poorly dressed and without even a clue that cold water can kill someone within minutes. In our team everybody is aware of that, and so the team members are dressed for immersion. We never had problems, or even cold, when doing exercises during the cold winter periods. During training we do a few rescues, get back in our crafts and paddle further on. That way, we keep up our body temperature. But, we wanted to know what to expect in an emergency situation when we are unable to get back in our craft, or worse, when losing our craft. We don’t want to know what happens when we are well rested, when our undergarment is perfectly dry (no sweat) and when we just begin our training. No, we want to know what will happen when we are tired (or exhausted), when our undergarment is wet from sweating, and when the water temperature is as low as possible in our area. So, we paddled a fast-paced tour (as fast as possible) to sweat a lot, lose energy and get tired. We succeeded in that when entering the safety of the harbor to commence the test. The water temperature is 2°C, which is the coldest the water gets in our area. Safety precautions were taken in advance and the Coast Guard was aware of our test. In the video you will see the stage we went through, from entering the water until we got ourselves in the first stage of hypothermia. After thirty minutes we experienced uncontrolled shivering which was the signal to get out of the water. Of course, it would be possible a lot longer in cold water, in case of a real emergency. But we don’t want to take risks, our goal was already achieved. We were able to conduct a cold-water safety test that was as realistic as possible. That way we can share our knowledge with the rest of the team, and with other paddlers. Our main message; don’t be afraid of going out when it’s (very) cold, but be well prepared. Wear a good quality PFD and good clothing that protects you against the cold water (dress for immersion), field and swim test your gear on a regular base in the conditions you paddle in and last but not least, imagine the worst that can happen and prepare for it! We sincerely hope that our test can help you get a better understanding of cold water safety. We also advise you to have a look at the website of the NATIONAL CENTER FOR COLD WATER SAFETY. You can find a lot of good tips, together with real life stories. Paddle safe and take care of each other!!
Training is about the repetition of techniques and skills. Training should enable you to do things automatically, without thinking about it, without hesitations. We have the good habit in our team to do some of those so-called training drills every time we go out for a paddle. There’s absolutely no excuse for not doing it, it only costs you a few minutes at the beginning, at the end or somewhere in between your paddling session, your choice. This drill on the self-rescue is about gaining extra stability when you are on the back deck. It makes you aware of your sea kayaks behavior when you’re out of the cock-pit. It gives you the needed confidence should you capsize. Start with it on calm water and then build your way up so you can do this drill in the conditions you normally paddle in. We give you a few extra tips in the video. Enjoy your training! Paddle safe and take care of each other on the water!
Our Training Day has been a success. It is the third edition so far, with the same ingredients as before. The goal is to get sea kayakers, whatever their skills, level, age or gender, together for safety training. Again, we’ve seen both experienced paddlers train with the less experienced and this works very well. For the newcomers it’s ideal because they can learn things the right way from the start. For the more experienced paddlers among us it’s also a good way to correct the little mistakes, or refine their skills. We chose the canal at the Westhoek Marina because it allows us to train a larger group, while everybody stays in the immediate vicinity. Perfect to keep an eye out for everyone, give feed-back or for the participants to ask questions. In the morning we highlighted the theoretical side, we explained some important safety rules, talked about equipment and the good use of it. We explained, with the help of some videos, how people can rescue themselves after a capsize, how they can rescue another paddler after a capsize. During the afternoon we’ve convert all those things into practice. We’ve got the permission to launch some distress flares and pyrotechnics. Lessons are learned, never trust on one or two flares if your life depends on it. Better to have some more on board. Many thanks to the Waterway Police for their presence during the demo. Thanks to the people of the Westhoek Marina for the venue! This day would not have been possible without the help of those working behind the scenes, so a big thanks to those! Again, it was a true pleasure working with such motivated and responsive people.
One of our own team mates capsized, lost his kayak and got unconscious three kilometres offshore during our last trip. It’s probably one of the worst nightmares that can happen to us. Luckily it’s just a training scenario, the “worst case scenario” in fact! In our group we train these things on a regular base. Not only because we paddle safer, but also to build up trust in each other, to learn from mistakes and to get better in what we do. It’s also team building and thus great fun! The week before we did practically the same scenario but in rougher conditions, it works also. It’s important to state that this is in no way a training video, we just want to show what is possible and how we respond to such an incident as a team. There is certainly no “one solution for every problem”, but this is a possible way to counter these events. Always make sure to take care of the (unconscious) paddler first. Retrieving his kayak comes later. If the paddler is conscious and you’re sure that he is OK, you can go after the drifting kayak and bring it back to him. Most important is to communicate with each other in a loud and clear way. Work always as a team not as an individual, get everyone involved. Make sure to take First Aid classes every now and then, make sure to know how to use your equipment (radio, cell phone, Personal Locater Beacon,….) and dress for immersion. Always wear your PFD, no exceptions!
There is more to sea kayaking than just forward paddling. You will enjoy paddling even more when you are fully in control of your boat. You will be able to get closer in and around things when having certain abilities. It’s a lot more fun too. This time we have put some of the most important manoeuvring techniques in one video. It is not a training video, therefor it is to short and it lacks some explanation of the details. But we will let you see what is possible with a sea kayak and a good paddle in your hands. As you can see in our others videos, those techniques are working well in the rougher stuff or in the surf zone. It sure will take some time to master those manoeuvring techniques but it will be worth the while. The video contains footage of some draw strokes, turning a sea kayak, both low and high brace, bow and stern rudder. We filmed from different angles to show you how it’s done. We’ve put a lot of effort and time in this video and we sincerely hope that it may be of use to other paddlers. Paddle safe and take care of each other!
29 July Porthdafarch – South Stack, via Penrhyn Mawr, with Ed Loffill
2 August Soldiers Point – South Stack, via North Stack with Ed Loffill and Justine Curgenven
Sea Kayak Sailing/Surfing at Penrhyn Mawr
Sea Kayak Sailing/Surfing at South Stack
The sail was taken down for surfing steeper waves at South Stack
The sail back up to surf closely past South Stack’s headland
Beam reach sailing back to Porthdafarch
South Stack with Ed and Justine
The Delphin MKII CoreLite X
The biggest improvement I found in the Delphin MKII CoreLite X is the extra speed and responsiveness it has in surf. This is thanks largely to the greater stiffness in the plastic construction. The cockpit has also been improved to provide better comfort and connectivity. The day hatch is a welcome addition, as are the sailing fittings. In summary, the Delphin MKII CoreLite X has all of the great features of the original Delphin but with some very useful additions/refinements and stiffer plastic for even more fun surfing.
Sea Kayak Sailing in Tideraces
It is a bit of a balance whether/or not to deploy the sail in a tiderace. When the waves are not particularly steep the addition of a sail makes catching waves far easier, increasing the number of surfable waves and the length of the runs. At some point the balance between fun and fear will probably tip towards fear, or at the very least uncomfortableness. It is now time to take the sail down as the surf has steepened up and you probably don’t need any more help catching the waves.
West Coast of Ireland
Sea kayaks enable their users to explore and play on life-affirming journeys. Part of the challenge is to safely utilise the currents, swell and winds. The direct energy of the wind has been largely unused by most modern sea kayakers. In recent decades sailing rigs have become far more manageable to use on sea kayaks and their distribution/availability outside of Australia and New Zealand is only now becoming a reality. This exciting development is opening up brand new sea kayaking opportunities and challenges for all. From downwind coastal runs to traversing huge exposed island chains, like the Aleutians, sea kayak sailing is putting bigger smiles on people’s faces and aiding in epic journeys.
Tropical beach on Caldey Island
Windy day at Cadnant Bay Menai Straits
Kayak sailing was invented in 1865 when John “Rob Roy” MacGregor designed and built a sailing kayak for his 1,000 mile journey along the inland waterways of Europe. Those early Rob Roy Kayaks subsequently evolved into the huge variety of kayak types that we know today. Sail equipped kayaks remained popular into the 1930s. In 1934, Alastair Dunnett and Seumas Adam (“The Canoe Boys”) used their sail equipped Lochaber kayaks on an impressive and pioneering journey to explore the west coast of Scotland.
Kayak sailing also became popular in continental Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1928 Franz Romer kayak sailed across the Atlantic from Lisbon to Puerto Rico. He attempted to continue his journey onwards to New York but went missing, presumably killed, in a hurricane. Oskar Speck’s similarly epic seven year kayak sailing trip from Germany to Australia should have been widely celebrated as an amazing achievement. However, arriving at his destination in September 1939 he was interned for the duration of the Second World War.
Kayak sailing subsequently went out of fashion in Europe. Towards the end of the twentieth century sails were beginning to be developed for use on modern sea kayaks by Australia and New Zealand-based kayakers. Sea kayak sailing is now commonplace in these countries and is beginning to take hold in Europe and North America.
Skerries Lighthouse, Anglesey
Surfing in Ireland
Surfing near Stackpole
Why sea kayak sail?
Maintaining the top displacement hull speed is easier when sea kayak sailing. It is also much easier to get your kayak planing in swell and tidal rapids. This is particularly useful when attempting to catch less steep waves. In essence you will catch more waves, considerably increasing your speed and range. Average speeds of 7 knots with planing top speed runs in excess of 10 knots are not unusual in conditions where it would be considerably more difficult for conventional sea kayaks to plane and maintain average speeds of more than 3-4 knots.
When the waves become too steep it is best to stow the sail away as it will no longer enhance the experience and will, most likely, become a liability.
- Enhanced safety
The sail appears triangular and conspicuous from afar and/or in overhead rolling swell.
The exposure of paddling along coastlines with less frequent safe landings is reduced if the wind and sail combine to add to the kayaks propulsion.
Caldey Island tiderace
Getting into sea kayak sailing
The main airfoil sail available in Europe is the Flat Earth Kayak Sails range of airfoils. They are designed and manufactured in Australia by Mick MacRobb. Other airfoil sails are being manufactured for sea kayaks but they are far less common in Europe.
Sea kayak manufacturers
Many composite sea kayaks will need strengthening in order to accommodate a sail mast. You can assess this by pressing down on the deck near the compass recess and gauging whether there is much flexibility in the deck and hull. Most kayak companies will strengthen your kayak by special order. Plastic kayaks tend to be more robust in taking a sail mast.
Since 2012, P&H kayaks have produced all of their composite kayaks with enough strength to accommodate a sail mast. Their plastic Scorpio MKII range of sea kayaks has been designed with sailing in mind. It easily accommodates a Flat Earth Sail and handles superbly well when sailed.
Have a go/purchase
Scotland – Karitec are the main UK distributor of Flat Earth Kayak Sails and have a range of demo boats to try out under sail.
England – P&H have demo kayaks fitted with sails and attend many sea kayak symposiums.
Wales – Sea Kayaking Wales (SKW) are based on Anglesey and have a range of P&H sea kayaks and Flat Earth Kayak Sails to try out. SKW also run sea kayaking (including sailing) courses in Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Llŷn and the Gower. Flat Earth Sails are available to purchase from SKW.
http://seakayakphoto.blogspot.co.uk/ – An excellent blog written by, Douglas Wilcox, one of the most enthusiastic proponents of sea kayak sailing in Europe.
http://www.flatearthkayaksails.com/ – The most popular airfoil sail in the UK at present.
After paddling the Octane on Llyn Padarn I wanted to try it out at sea in wind, waves and moving water. My kayaking buddies for this trip were Ed and Abi Loffil.
The Pyranha Octane with the Flat Earth Sail fitted
Ed and Abi had a head start on the outward leg so I followed them 20 minutes after their departure. This leg had up to 10 knots of southerly wind with a slightly post spring tidal current to propel us on the flooding tide to The Skerries. Time of leg – 1.5 hrs.
Approaching Penrhyn Mawr
Approaching the middle race of Penrhyn Mawr
Rush Hour in Holyhead Bay
Departing The Skerries
Surfing circuits at The Skerries
The return leg had 10-17 knots of southerly wind against the south flowing ebb tide. Time of leg – 3 hrs.
The rough journey back south
Taking a rest at South Stack
Sailing home to Porth Dafarch
The team returned at Porth Dafarch with our paddling friend Jan
Initial thoughts on the Octane
Previous to receiving the Octane I had never paddled a surfski. The closest speedy boat I had experienced to compare it to is the Rockpool Taran. The Octane, like the Taran, is great fun to paddle fast, especially in surf. At speed the surf ski is particularly stable, locking into its watery path. Its stability seemed further enhanced with the addition of the Flat Earth Sail, as this gave more propulsion. It is even better to sail than the equivalent P&H Scorpio or Delphin sailing kayaks as it is super quick and responsive to the rudder. With its open cockpit it felt a lot like a modern sailing dinghy, especially with the gurgling sound of the self-bailer.
Paddling downwind with swell was far, far better than the reverse into wind and waves. The former situation gave much greater speed than the accompanying sea kayaks, whereas into wind and swell the surfski was only marginally quicker, despite lots more effort from my core muscles. I probably need to improve my technique in these conditions.
The Octane is a very positive boat. It rewards good posture and technique with better performance. This feedback is proving really useful as I try to get better at paddling a surf ski.
Next time I want to try some more downwind runs!