Week of November 16-23, 1995
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Safe sea kayaking in Canada's Gulf Islands
Q: I am considering sea kayaking the western shore of Canada and around the Gulf Islands. What are some survival items a person should include in a personal flotation device in case they become separated from the kayak?
A: According to the Trade Association of Sea Kayaking, 414-242-5228, the most crucial element while kayaking off the western coast of Canada is what you are wearing. The temperature of the Pacific gives you very little survival time in the water in the event you become separated from your kayak, even if you're wearing a wetsuit or drysuit. In other words, you'll need to be able to rescue yourself. If you capsize, try to stay with your boat or paddle, as it's hard to be seen otherwise. However, on the off-chance this isn't possible, always keep flares and a whistle--or another noisemaker, such as a fog horn--on your personal flotation device.
A recent trend has been to also carry along an EPIRB, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, whose signal is picked up by satellite. However, this device is inconsistent and depends on when the satellite passes overhead. In cold water, you can't wait five hours. Check with the Canadian Coast Guard in Victoria, 604-480-2600, to find out more information on this and Canadian PFD regulations.
Remember to carry on your kayak a compass, flashlight, bailer or pump, flare pack, knife, weather radio, chart cases, and tide guides, sea wings, paddle floats, and an extra paddle. Always keep your name, phone, and address inside your kayak, and inform people where you'll be and when. A good book to check out is The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking, by Derek C. Hutchinson (Globe Pequot Press, 1994).