“I’m mainly in 3 ft of water or less, I don’t need PFD.”
“If something happens, I’ll just use my cell to call for help. I don’t need a VHF Radio.”
“I’ll be in before dark, I don’t need lights on my yak.”
These are just a few of the silly things I have told myself when I first started kayaking. Personal experience and sage advice from long time kayakers opened my eyes to the ignorance of these statements.
This post would be much longer if I listed everything I carry for “safety” so I will just stick with 3.
PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
The wake from a boat flips you, you lose your balance while standing up and fall in, a big fish dumps you, or your yak starts taking on water from a leak or hole… all of these scenarios are not only possible, but have happened. The list of ways one can wind up in the water is not short.
Regardless of the reason, if you end up in the drink unintentionally, keeping your head above water is your highest priority. If you are wearing your PFD sinking becomes impossible. If you are alone and cannot flip your boat back over, you can safely wait for help. Fatigue can happen quickly, especially in colder weather. A PFD gives rescuers extra time to get to you.
Wearing a PFD, you can immediately begin to try and recover your gear. Some of us carry thousands of dollars’ worth of rods and equipment. When you have something keeping you afloat it’s a lot easier to search for your stuff than trying to do so while doggy paddling.
The Pros highly outweigh the Cons for wearing a PFD. In fact, I cannot think of one reason not to wear one. Don’t be that guy. I used to argue that there was no way I could ever end up in the water on accident… then I grew up. While a PFD may cover up the cool brand name you’re wearing on your shirt pocket, it might just save your life one day.
To be honest I just recently started carrying a VHF Radio. Fortunately, I have yet to get lost, stuck, or seriously injured where I needed to call for help. My cell phone has worked most of the time, but I have started to pay attention to the “what ifs” that can happen on the water.
If you are taking your yak out onto the open ocean the VHF Radio is a must. You can place an emergency call, or equally as important – hear the call of another kayaker in need. Getting stuck out on the open ocean or floating around in shark infested water is pretty terrifying if you think about it. Almost every marine radio is waterproof and some are submersible. Clipping the radio to your PFD keeps it accessible whether you’re dry in your boat or trying not to get eaten floating in the ocean. The VHF radio also provides weather updates. The last thing you want to happen is have a storm roll in while your 8 miles from shore or stuck deep back in a marsh system miles from your car. (Let’s face it, you can check the forecast before hand but I find the weatherman is wrong more than half the time).
I have also found my radio is a hell of a lot easier to contact the people I am out with than digging for my phone in the hatch. My buddies and I often split up and take different paths in the back lakes. We all carry VHF Radios and have them set to the same channel. Updating each other on fish and our locations is much simpler this way than a cell phone. Now that I carry one of these guys I am a believer.
360 Light and Headlamp
Lights, like the PDF, should be a common sense carry on your kayak – but about 10 years ago I didn’t have a light for my kayak. It took a boat almost cutting my yak in two before daylight to jumpstart my thinking. In dark or lowlight, I now wear a headlamp and turn on my 360 light. This makes me visible to boaters and lets my buddies know where I am.
Another reason I have lights in the boat is a little more obvious – being able to see. I like to cast and check my gear is in the right place on the way to my first spot. I can double check everything is strapped down and my pliers and Boga Grips are in the right place. This is tough to do in the dark.
I could stretch this paragraph out with some stats and more horror stories – but come on guys, let’s allow others on the water to know where we are located, especially BOATS.
As I mentioned earlier, I will save you some reading and not list everything I carry for safety. If you are new to kayaking and don’t know what you need for safety on the boat, Google “what to carry on your kayak.” You will find many different articles to get you started. An even easier answer would be head over to your local ACK store and ask those guys. The ACK staff members live on the water and have a wealth of knowledge. ACK also carries everything you need to safely hit the ocean, bay, or lake. Check ‘em out!
ACK & Hobie Fishing Team
YT: The Sober Fisherman