Be Seen, Be Safe
If you are out in open waters in a Kayak or on a Surf Ski you are sitting very close to or below the surface of the water. What sticks up above the water can be very difficult to see when there are waves that can hide you. If you cannot be seen then you are at risk of being run down by larger fast moving craft, irrespective of the obligations they may have to give way.
Here are some things a paddler can do to mitigate the problem.
- Keep a good lookout. Be aware of the boats in the area and anticipate what they may be doing and adjust your course and or speed to give them as far as possible a wide berth.
- Always wear a lifejacket and preferably one that has a colour in the red to yellow spectrum. The rest of your clothing and indeed the colour of the craft and paddles can be chosen on the same basis.
- Consider fitting a high visibility flag on a staff a metre or more in height so that it is visible even when you are in the trough of a wave.
- When visibility is generally poor such as when there is fog or at twilight a bright
Not forgetting of course the general boating safety advice to obtain a weather forecast of wind, visibility, and wave conditions for the area you will be paddling in, tell someone where you are going and eta of return, and carry a means of emergency communication like a personal locator beacon, a hand held VHF radio, or even a mobile phone if it is waterproof.
The RailBlaza company has a number of products that will help paddlers in being seen. They have a Visibility Kit that includes a flag and a light that mounts on a pole about 1 meter long. The pole can be disassembled into three pieces for easy stowage. The Kit comes with a mounting bracket that allows the pole to be demounted or locked securely in place. The mounting bracket in the kit comes with stainless steel self tapping screws.
The light at the top of the pole is a low power draw Light Emitting Diode (LED) powered by 3 x AA batteries. The light has three modes of operation: full brightness mode (2 nautical miles visibility and up to 25 hours battery life depending on the quality of batteries the user inserts), a low brightness mode and a flashing mode both of which significantly extends the battery life.