Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The risks of kayaking

I once read a rather sombre book called "Total Loss" which was packed with accounts of the events that led to a yacht going down. It was, however, a useful read in warning of the dangers of going to sea and hopefully will encourage better practice.

Today I skimmed through a similar document: the MCA's 2010 Canoe and Kayak Incident Annual Report, available from here. It categories incidents into Rescued, Abandoned, FAWGI (which means false alarm with good intent), fatality and other.

Alas there were in total 9 canoe and kayaker deaths during the year, 4 of which were in April, when people are tempted out onto the waters still cold from winter. Two got trapped in rushing rivers while another two were adverse conditions in coastal waters.

But two might have been avoided as one involved drinks and drugs, while another apparently was in the Aberffraw Estuary in challenging conditions without a life jacket or buoyancy aid. Its hard to know what to say; those are two definite no-nos, as was the hoax.

Quite a few stories of members of the public misinterpreting capsize drills and also a lot of abandoned kayaks, plus some intriguing human interest like this one:

"St Austell Coastguards were called to a report of MALE in a Kayak overdue between Lostwithiel and Golant, by his wife. Unit stood down when missing MALE called his wife from Fowey."

I wonder what was said on his return - but what an appropriate place to get lost in.

Let's be careful out there.


Bursledon Blogger said...

you have to ask why St Austell's has a coastguard, last time I looked it was more than a few miles from the coast?

While it's tragic that 9 people have died it should be remembered that kayaking is a dangerous sport, especially in white water where even well trained and hugely experienced participants can get into trouble and in those situations there's little that the coastguard could do to assist.

Surely we as participants in water based activities need to ensure that we are prepared, capable and understand our limitations rather than rely on others to put themselves at risk when we get it wrong.

JP said...

It's a bit like the busiest lifeboat stations are the ones in London.

On the other hand some of those kayakers that got into trouble were well prepared and things just went wrong. Jolly glad the lifeboats are there for those situations.

I might do a post on my preparations for excursions in the blue inflatable kayak, but not going to go out this weekend due as my check-list has identified a no-no:
1) will the tide be right? (yes)
2) will the weather be ok? (yes)
3) is the water quality ok? (er, no - just seen the Bubbler go by again :( )

JP said...

Saw this story today of an accident on a boat racing in one of the RORC cross-channel races, which is very sad.

JP said...

More on the accident here. Must admit bit shaken getting one of those could have been me feelings. I've sailed Reflex 38s on RORC series before and was thinking of doing so again.