Sea Kayak Safety

Mandatory Safety Equipment/Adverse Weather Procedure

Our club has a good safety record but that does not mean we cannot reduce the probability of incidents still further. It is considered prudent to expand the information in the documents Trip Considerations and Kit List (Nov 08) and Touring Requirements and Abilities (April 09) to give clear instruction on what must be carried on day/multi day expeditions both at sea and on fresh water lochs. The following is recommended practice for all except close inshore training and short paddles under instruction. All individuals are expected to carry yachting type coastal flares of the hand held design; 1 x red, 1 x orange smoke as a minimum. A red 350 metre parachute flare is also recommended for ‘regulars’. A whistle and head torch/strobe must also be carried together with spare clothing (unless wearing a dry or wet suit) as a matter of course. The hand flares, whistle and torch/strobe must be carried in or attached to the buoyancy aid.

Other pieces of kit that regulars should consider obtaining in due course are;

VHF radio – for kayakers the submersible type is probably best. Guidance and training in their use can be arranged as necessary. Waterproof radios are available around £90 and submersible around £150. VHF hand held does not have a long range but can be invaluable in situations where shore stations, other vessels or aircraft are in reasonable proximity. They also receive weather broadcasts where location is favourable to reception.

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) – The title says it all and is only for use in situations of dire emergency since once it is triggered, reception via satellite is virtually guaranteed and the resulting response is automatic i.e. emergency services are scrambled. The devices work anywhere in the world and there is a registration scheme for owners. One of the best and cheapest for our purpose is the McMurdo Fastfind 210 Personal Locator Beacon with GPS (transmit only) at a cost of £200. The device weighs 150grm, has a battery life of 5 years and transmits on a monitoring and a homing frequency with GPS position transmitted to increase response speed, hence the name. The alternative to an EPIRB is SPOT (see Geoff) at around £90 plus annual subscription of £90.

Strobe Light – a waterproof strobe light. Example is the ACR C-Strobe with a visibility of 2 miles in all directions on 2 x AA batteries at a cost of £23.

Tow Line – Suitable for sea use. These can be fixed permanently to a kayak or fastened round the waist of the paddler.

It is the responsibility of every individual to remain in close proximity to leader/group in poor conditions to enable communication. This is fundamental to risk reduction and response to any casualty situation. In conditions where spoken communication is difficult or impossible it is proposed to use two whistle signals.

One long blast: Meaning – You are too far away from me.

Action – Close up (or wait if someone has dropped back)

Two long blasts: Meaning – I have (or have seen) a problem.

Action –  All go to assist

Where a member of a group cannot for whatever reason carry on paddling (two whistle blasts), the first action of the group, will be to close up to the casualty and either support and tow or, if there is sufficient sea room, raft up to consider/agree actions. Appropriate actions may vary but scenarios will be discussed in training. Handling/rescue of an unconscious (or otherwise unable to participate) casualty will be added to the self-rescue and buddy rescue requirements in the pool and open water.

It is quite possible that having purchased some of the above equipment you will never use it because your skill and judgement have kept you safe. That is exactly what is intended. If however you are involved in an incident you may well be grateful that you are fully kitted up.

Equipment and Policy

The club currently possesses:

  • 8 River kayaks (including 2 children size)
  • 3 Open Canoes (2 person)
  • 3 Sea Kayaks (to be delivered)
  • 1 Trailer (4 canoes/sea kayaks or 12 river kayaks)
  • Associated equipment (Spray Decks, Paddles, Buoyancy Aids)

Thanks to the local Scouts, for larger training groups we also have access to 11 all purpose kayaks on a 3 level trailer (6 canoes/sea kayaks).

Club boats are available to members for loan free on all club events.

Club boats are also available at a nominal cost of £2 per day (£4 for canoes) for other trips if not being used by the club.

Trips & Events, September & October 2010

September Trips

Wednesday 15th: An early start (7.30) for a prompt return (by 7.00). Destination TBC dependent upon weather but likely to be Kerrera or Lismore in Firth of Lorne.

Weekend 1st-5th October. Again destination tbc but possibly dolphin watching in Moray Firth

T.B.C. We are anxious to run a river trip during September on either the Teith or Tay

Other Events

Wed 6th to Sat 9th October:  Helensburgh 2010. We have a stand at the ten yearly “Clubs and Societies Show”. Offers to man stand gratefully accepted but in any case come along with friends and relatives to see what we have done and are planning to do.

Weekend 23rd/24th October: Paddle 2010. The Scottish Canoe Show in Perth which, this year, includes a Tay descent. See SCA pages ( for more details. Lots of gear, talks and demos. A must do for anyone remotely serious about the sport.

Sunday 24th October: Come and Try Day. A follow up from Helensburgh 2010 for newcomers to come and try different canoes and kayaks

Training Autumn 2010

We are offering 3 courses in September and October

1. Basic Skills. This is intended for members with little or no experience and consists of 7 pool sessions starting Sept 14th and 3 open water sessions on 18th Sept, 10th October and 23rd October with a 2 BCU Star/ Paddlepower assessment for those who want provisionally on the 30th October. There are up to 8 places. Minimum age 12. Cost is £20 plus assessment costs. Register before 14th September by email or at the pool on the 7th (tonight). Pay on the 14th.  Membership forms available at pool.

2. Advanced Sea Skills. This is intended for experienced sea kayakers developing safety and rescue techniques (including rolling). Please contact Hugh

3. Open Canoe Skills. This is intended for adult members who want to develop skills in open boats. Particularly relevant to those who do or would like to coach youngsters. 4 sessions starting this Saturday 11th and on the 25th September and 9th October. Register at the pool.

In November we expect to start 2 further courses

1. Sea Kayak Expedition Training. Intended for those who want to take part in and organise expeditions. Covers basic safety and rescue skills (including self rescue and rolling), equipment (emergency, camping and clothing) and navigation (understanding tides and charts, planning)

2. Rescue and Rolling. A follow up for those who have acquired the Basic Skills.

Pool Sessions

A pool session is available at the Helensburgh Pool on a Tuesday from 8.15 to 9pm. Meet outside by 8pm.

You will need to be a member and the cost is £3 per session. You may bring your own boat provided it is spotlessly clean.

Loch Awe, Weekend 27th-29th August 2010

The trip was the bad weather alternative and a strong westerly wind force 3-5  was the dominant feature of the trip. Loch Awe is the longest loch in Scotland (longer than both Loch Ness and Loch Lomond) but had few outstanding features. Previous trips had explored the north so the group headed south west into the wind. The Friday evening paddle covered 6km to an excellent site at Inverinan.

Around the Camp Fire
The fire without the flash
The Site

Cold, wet and windy, the highlight of the following day was the remarkable Innis Chonnel castle. In many ways much better than its partner to the north (Kilchurn) but much less well known because of its island location.

At the entrance to the castle
Mick beneath the main tower of the castle

Lunch on Liever Island followed by a river trip down to Ford then a long paddle back up the loch to a glade site at Barr Point a toal of 36.8 km (21miles) in less than ideal conditions. An excellent fire before heavy rain drove us to bed.

Campsite at Barr Point

Sunday proved to be bright and breezy. An attractive paddle up the loch with short breaks for elevenses and lunch and back to Portsonnachan for 3pm. A pleasant if rather unexciting trip in excellent company.

Heading north with Cruachan in the distance
The group: Stewart, Geoff, Ken, Ruth, Mick, Hugh and David

Loch Lomond, Wednesday 26/8/10

This was a short gentle stunning trip through the islands to end the summer season. Loch was flat calm and it was a beautiful evening. Attending as photographed: Mike, Natalie, Sam, Dave, Callum, Mel, Ross and Angus. Not pictured – Geoff who took the picture and the three camera shy wallabies.

Wednesday Evenings: Summer 2010

Over 20 members have enjoyed a Wednesday evening cruise with the club during the school holidays. The list of trips follows:

30 River Leven

2/3 Arden Camp
7 Cancelled

14 Loch Long: Very Windy. A real challenge
Geoff, Stewart, Seylan, Robin, Callum, Chris, Mel

21 Balamaha: Wet, Breezy
Geoff, Mel, Callum, Robin

28 Inverbeg: Rowardennan: Lovely Evening
Geoff, Robin, Stewart, Dave

4 Duck Bay to Inchmurrin and Round: Beautiful and Calm
Geoff, Mel, Natalie, Stewart, Damien, Callum, Robin, Colin Redstone, Alan, Sue, Seylan, Dave

11 Coulport to Ardentinny. Windy and Grey
Geoff, Hugh, Natalie, Derek, Stewart

18 Clyde to Sugar Boat. Lovely Evening. Light Breeze
Geoff, Mel, Damien, Dave B, Myles, Myles Mate, Donald Craig, Callum, Ross, Natalie

Loch Lomond Beginners Canoe Camp, July 2010

The weather forecast was force 4 plus winds and a decision was taken early on to abandon Inchcailloch as a target and Inchvannach was arranged as a substitute. By Friday night we had become really worried about the forecast for Sunday morning and, given  the age of our group, decided that an island trip was not on. Rather than let down our youngsters, at least one of whom had never camped, we arranged at the last moment to camp at Arden, on the mainland, and do as much as we could from there.

Arden is a lovely site free from animals and with its own beach. We were delighted to find that the owner had kindly cut the grass and, all in all, it was a close to perfect choice in the light of the prevailing  weather.

The Camp Site

We had enjoyable paddles to the North before dinner and south after and, though it was breezy, the wind was nearer force 2 than 4.

Looking to Glen Finlas

A good fire, good food (despite the extremely charred sausages) and good company led a a pleasant evening.

About 10 pm at Arden Campsite

Apart from the occasional “spit” the weather stayed dry until about 10pm when light rain commenced. A quickly erected shelter kept us dry for the rest of the evening. Sometime after 6am, however, the promised heavy rain commenced, albeit without the promised high winds. Reluctance by the youngsters to venture out of their tents and the continuing downpour led to a decision to abandon canoeing. By 10 am the promised high winds started to move in (along with the rain) finally confirming that our decision to abandon the islands was probably correct.

Summer 2010 NEWS

The Training Sessions finish with the Canoe Camp to Inchcailloch this Saturday (July 4th) but the club will continue with trips and Polo throughout the summer. Keep an eye on the website and your email for details but there will be a trip next Wednesday evening July 7th and a long sea trip, probably to Skye and Harris, in August.

Most of the gear has now arrived and we have 3 Canoes, 7 River Boats and a Trailer available to members. We are now seeking a long term home for the equipment.