Thursday, June 3, 2010

“RULES OF THE ROAD” and Signaling Devices for Sea Kayakers

Outline for a clinic at WMCKA 2010 symposium

  1. YOU are the Captain of your Ship—CONGRATULATIONS! "With great power comes great responsibility!"
  2. Where do Navigation Rules Apply? International --> Inland --> State --> Municipal
  3. What is a kayak under Navigation Rules? Where does it fit among others?
    1. Certainly a Vessel (any means of transportation), not excluded from being subject to the Rules
    2. Power Driven > Sailing > Fishing > Restricted in the Ability to Maneuver > Not Under Command
    3. Limited Maneuverability (speed) status is not explicitly granted to kayaks in the Rules; other vessels are required under law to consider kayak's limited speed when assessing risk of collision, but SO ARE YOU!
    4. Suggestion: Operate as if you are a Power Driven Vessel (any vessel propelled by machinery—paddle)
    5. Kayak is a Sailing Vessel when under sail
    6. Always remember that you are difficult to see and other vessels are not on the look-out for small craft when under way
  4. Rules Abridged: Rights and Obligations = Good Seamanship
    1. Maintain proper look-out with eyes and ears and by any other available means
    2. Maintain safe distance and speed at all times
    3. Avoid collision with others. Other vessels need to avoid collision with you WHEN and IF they see you (limited visibility) and when and if they can (limited turning and stopping ability of big ships + shallow water)
      1. Take timely action
      2. Use decisive maneuvers—avoid small changes to speed and/or course
  5. Right of the way (ROW) = the only time a kayak has the right of the way is when it is being passed by another vessel. Maintain course and speed—the other vessel has no right to cut you off. You should avoid collision if in danger when being passed and have the right to ignore the rule to maintain speed/course. Vessels limited by channels have the right of the way in areas of limited operational space
  6. Interactions with Other Vessels—"stand-on"=vessel that will maintain course vs. "give-way"=vessel that should not cross in front of the other vessel by stopping, slowing, and/or turning:
    1. Open water=unlimited navigability:
      1. Overtaking: vessel being passed has ROW, overtaking vessel can pass on either side—keep course and speed unless in danger
      2. Head-on: neither of two power vessels has ROW, both turn to starboard/right to avoid collision. Sailing vessel has the ROW over power-driven, power-driven needs to turn to starboard/right
      3. Crossing: vessel on starboard/right has ROW if two power vessels; sailing has ROW over power
    2. Narrow channels=sides defined by sea walls or banks:
      1. Stay as far to starboard/right as safely possible—can use middle of channel if sides are not safe (rebounding waves)
      2. Do not impede vessels that can only navigate in the channel (sailboats only have ROW if limited by keel)
      3. Avoid crossing and cross fast, at right angles, and as a single group if many kayaks
    3. Fairways=shipping lanes and open water channels: treat as narrow channels with an additional challenge of knowing where they are (need current charts), cross fast in a group and with plenty of safety cushion. Safe distance in front of ship—need to get out of the way even if paddle gets broken, capsize, dislocate shoulder, etc.
  7. Darkness: powerful white light exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision course; single constant white light will signify a sailing vessel or a stationary small boat to others
  8. Limited visibility: generate a sound warning every two minutes with at least 0.5 mile audible range

  9. Signaling devices—devices to attract attention:
    1. Hand and paddle signals
    2. Sound signals: Whistle, Air Horn, or Fog Horn for warning and communication
      1. One short blast = right/starboard (two long one short if passing on starboard)
      2. Two blasts = left/port (two long two short if passing on port)
      3. Three short blasts = backing/stern
      4. One long blast = warning/announcing location
      5. Five short blasts = imminent danger
      6. One long + one short blast = passing on starboard/right
      7. One long + two short blasts = passing on port/left
    3. Navigational Lights: required to display in order to alert other vessels
    4. Strobes: recognized call for help on inland waters; widely used in international waters but not technically legal there
    5. Flares—3 required at night
      1. Aerial
      2. Hand-held
      3. Light, smoke, dye
    6. Brightly-Colored Rescue Bag—when inflated can be used to increase visibility and aid in search and rescue
    7. VHF Radio—"Mayday", "Pan-Pan", "Securit√©"; distress, help, warning. Also to communicate to other vessels and Coast Guard
      1. Channel 9 = recreational boat hailing
      2. Channel 13/14 (listening only) = bridge-to-bridge, port operations, visibility reports
      3. Channel 16 = emergency hailing
      4. Channel 22a = Coast Guard
      5. Channels 68/69/71/72/78 = recreational boat-to-boat
    8. Family Two-Way Radio (FSR)
    9. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB)/Personal Location Beacon (PLB) —to initiate rescue—Satellite Personal Tracker (SPOT)—alert Coast Guard or communicate with shore
    10. Cell Phone (dial *CG to reach Coast Guard within range of antennas)/Satellite Phone

Comments emphatically solicited.


Outline of a clinic at WMCKA 2010 kayak symposium:

  1. What is Safety?:
    1. "Getting out is optional, coming back mandatory!"
    2. #1 killer of sea kayakers = exposure to elements: cold, lightning, heat
    3. Avoid collision with other vessels, people, and property
  2. Before paddling:
    1. Body:
      1. General conditioning and flexibility
      2. Safe application of paddling skills
      3. Know your personal limits—endurance, power, medical conditions
      4. Stretching for warm-up and cool-down
    2. Head/Knowledge:
      1. Skills—technique, group dynamics, navigation, rules of the road, signaling, and rescue
      2. Risk assessment/Prevention—people, equipment, environment
      3. Practice what you know—intentions mediate between knowledge and action
      4. Leave a Float Plan behind (
    3. Equipment:
      1. Serviceable functional condition
      2. Match for environmental challenges at hand
      3. Know what to bring or leave behind—use a checklist (
  3. On the Water:
    1. Flotation:
      1. Boat—bulkheads/hatches (spare) or float bags, sprayskirt, sea sock, sea wings, pod cockpits, bailing device (pump)
      2. Self—PFD, paddle float, quick-self-inflate deck bag
    2. Propulsion: Paddle with spare and paddle leash, sail, diver's fins
    3. Fuel (for body): food, snacks, water, warm drink or soup
    4. Clothing:
      1. Temperature—dress relative to potential and consequences of immersion (wet/drysuit, layers, head/neck protection, cotton bad in cold climates but great when it's hot, gloves/pogies), storm cag
      2. Protection—PDF (body), helmet (head) , footwear (feet), gloves (hands), sun protection (skin)
    5. Communication: learn paddle/hand signals, VHF radio, whistle/fog horn, other signaling devices (mirror, handheld and aerial lights/flares, smoke, dye)
    6. Navigation: compass, timer, GPS, pre-marked charts, navigational lights, notebook, kamal
    7. Rescue: tow rope, perimeter lines, VHF radio, signaling devices (light, smoke), paddle float, sea anchor/drogue, first aid, repair kit, bail-out survival bag, bright clothing, reflective tape
  4. After the Paddle:
    1. Shelter/Fire
    2. Food/Water
    3. Means of summoning help or getting out on your own
    4. First aid kit/Boat repair kit
    5. Stretch and warm down to prevent injury
  5. Discussion: "What is the MOST important article of safety equipment?"
Comments required!