Safety Kit – Yes You Need One!
Yep - I’m guilty! I used to never carry a safety kit with me on the water. Why would I need one? I’m almost always out there with at least one other boat. Surely, we could handle any situation that arose. Afterall, we’re strong, experienced athletes….no problem.
That is until it is problem…and then it’s a big one.
I began to rethink my cavalier ways when a gold medal, very experienced team of women got into trouble. They were doing a late afternoon downwind training run. The wind and waves were substantial. Traveling with them was another team of strong, accomplished men. The men pulled ahead and, trusting the experience and capabilities of the women’s team, kept going, leaving the women to navigate the course alone.
That’s when Mother Nature decided to teach her children a lesson.
The women’s boat huli’d (Hawaiian for capsized) in the breaking swells. They righted the craft and began bailing only to be readily swamped. They flipped the boat upside down to empty some of the water, righted it again and started bailing once more. This cycle repeated itself 4 more times before shear exhaustion took over and they realized they needed help.
The sun was setting, it was getting cold and they were a good 1.5 miles offshore. As they bobbed in the crashing waves trying to decide what to do, one team member used her Apple watch to place a call to the Coast Guard. They were able to make contact and as the rescue vessel made way, they explained where they were located. Darkness had set in and while they could see the lights of the Coast Guard boat, they themselves were not visible.
The crew was in the water about 90 minutes before they were finally located and subsequently rescued. This was a tragedy in the making that fortunately was avoided because one crew member happened to be wearing the right version of an Apple watch.
After hearing that story, I decided to put together a safety kit for myself and it was not too long before I was relieved that I had it with me. I was on my OC2 with my racing partner doing a downwind run in big swells and 29 MPH gusts. A huge, rogue wave appeared on the outside so we immediately turned into the cresting wave in an attempt to get to safety. Just as we were getting over the top of the wave it broke and launched us off our boat.
I was swept under the boat and my leg hit the rudder, jamming it firmly in place and as I later discovered, shattering the steering mechanism. As I got back on the boat, I realized I had no steering and we were in dangerous conditions. Jumping back into the water, I was able to get the rudder somewhat operational, enough to go the last 3 miles and get us safely into shore. We never panicked or became too concerned as we knew we had the safety kit with us and could get help quickly if needed.
It gave us the confidence required to deal with a potentially life-threatening situation.
My safety kit is a dry bag that I clip to my boat and contains an EPIRB device, two marine flares, a marine whistle, a signaling mirror attached to a marine float and two energy bars in case it’s a long time before a rescue team arrives. I also carry water with me and always wear a PFD (Personal Floatation Device). An EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) is a portable electronic device that, once activated, emits a continuous and distinctive radio distress signal including your GPS position for at least 48 hours.
There are several on the market to choose from so do your research to find the right one for you. They can be expensive, but what is your life worth? The marine flares are great for signaling your position to an arriving rescue craft. Remember, you are a very small dot in the large body of water so you are not easy to spot. The mirror can be used at night to reflect back a spotlight or during the day to reflect back the sunlight to also signal your location. Whistles are good for sound signaling any time of day.
As paddlers, we’ve all faced that moment when Mother Nature humbles us with her power. In those moments it’s critical to remind the ocean who you are... a paddler who is prepared and confident that you have what it takes to face the challenge.
Because we care about the safety of our customers, at Full Circle Ocean Gear we carry Safety Kit Dry Bags, as well as whistles and signaling mirrors so that you can easily get yours started. We also provide links to where you can purchase marine flares (we can’t ship these to you) and EPIRB’s (so many options!) to help you securely voyage and stay safe on the water. We strongly encourage you to always wear a PFD, carry water, and add some form of energy bar when you paddle. The 5 L. dry bag is sized to accommodate most EPIRB devices.
Stay safe and click here to shop.