DiamonDog

Kayak safety in salt water (current, rips, wind)

14 posts in this topic

Posted (edited) · Report post

So far in my Salty PDL 120 I've stayed in the backwaters, rivers, harbors, in boston with no problems. Before I go out farther I'm wondering about the limits of a pedal kayak in wind, rips and tides. Mainly, will I struggle in heavy currents and rips to the point of danger, or will the pedal drive get me where I need to be? For example am I fine around the deer island rips or will I be overpowered?

 

I'm used to fishing in a whaler which might be giving me a sense of false confidence feeling I can go anywhere. I was surprise how tippy I felt crossing the harbor with a stout wind hitting me broadside.

Nubie yak question thanks for indulging me

Edited by DiamonDog

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Posted (edited) · Report post

The type of kayak has very little to do with it.  If all comes down to your level of expertise and confidence.  There are so many factors involved in staying "safe".  Below are just a few

  • Weather - on shore or off shore wind, velocity.  Wind with or against the tide, air temp, clear day or fog.....
  • Water temp - you will last a lot longer in 80* water vs 40*
  • Current -  how strong, what direction (don't want to end up in Portugal)
  • Structure -  shallow vs deep can make a huge difference in the action of the water (think rips)
  • Surf - flat vs Armageddon. (watch The Perfect Storm)
  • Equipment - you out there in a full dry suit vs jeans (not recommended), Do you have a radio, EPIRB? Can you call for help?
  • Solo or alone?  Whats your partners experience?  Newby vs world class 
  • Night or day - can make a big difference in reading the water
  • Boat traffic - not a boat in sight vs  keg night at the marina

Even with all of the above, the absolute, no **** factor is ability.  No one can tell you what you are ready for.  My advise to anyone who is thinking of "pushing their personal envelope" is this.   Go during the day, in good conditions, with someone who is experienced.  Listen to them and try to learn by example

 

Above all, listen to your inner voice.  If it seems wrong, wait for another day.  Have fun and stay safe.  

 

Remember, the object of the game is to live to fish another day!

 

EDIT:  I reread your initial post.  Regarding the DI rips, they can be non-existent or be a significant challenge depending on tide and wind.  Based on your question, I would not recommend you try it alone the first couple of times. (Basically what I said initially).

Edited by Jeff270

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Good stuff from Jeff. Also have a game plan for the day, and a plan b, c, d etc. if wind, weather, current is worse than you expected.  There have been a couple trips I had to land and wait out a tide or t-storm to get back safe. Once I portaged on the cart a 1/4 mile to avoid an unsafe point. I haven’t needed to yet but I sometimes have a plan to land in a “safe harbor” that’s different from where I launched if I felt pedaling back was unsafe.
 

Also, a vhf waterproof radio attached to your pfd with knowledge of how to use it and make a May Day call is huge for safety. Nearby boats can get that call and be on the scene quickly. And of course the coast guard can get that call and respond quickly as well. Hopefully you’d never have to make an emergency call and put CG or someone else at risk but having the ability to make that call can be the difference between just a bad day or a fatal one.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Observe weather, tides, winds, and don’t go alone. On a long paddle/pedal, food and hydration are way more important than you may think. I used to pedal about 2-3 miles one way to fish the CBBT, and the pedal back was always a struggle. 
 

If you haven’t been on the ocean in a kayak before, it might be a good idea to take it out there at least once without your fishing gear. Kayaks handle quite different in big water. Wind can constantly blow you off course. Rips can get sketchy when paddling perpendicular to them, especially if there is some chop. Tailing wind and waves dangerous too. 
 

Kayaks are pretty safe out on the big water, but you definitely do want to have some experience before you pile all your gear on it and take it out to your favorite spots. Have a plan A and a plan B, try to pack light, have a VHF, and do your homework before you go ie; weather, wind, etc. 
 

if you pick the right conditions and know your personal limits, most ocean trips are really no big deal. Frankly the biggest hazard in my opinion is motorboats. Never for one second believe that a boater sees you! Make yourself visible, have a light you can flash in someone eyes from a distance, and a really loud air horn. 

Edited by Matt7082

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Strong current is no joke, especially at night when it’s harder to see. I was out on one of the really big tides this past week, at night, trying to get to a spot I was confident would be holding fish. I had to go along the edge of the main channel in the big river I was fishing for a relatively short distance. Even though I was going with the current, it was still sketchy and I probably wouldn’t do it again in similar conditions. I clocked over 9mph on my fishfinder, just trying to get out of the channel to get onto the flat I wanted to fish. You don’t have a whole lot of control at that speed. It was difficult and I could’ve flipped if I caught a swirl in the current just right.
 

I’m normally extra-cautious on the outgoing as the current tends to be stronger as the bay drains, but this was the incoming. I should’ve factored in the huge tidal coefficient. All this to say, just because something is reasonably safe at one time, even at the same

point in the tide, doesn’t mean it will be every time. You can also get stranded in some locations because of the current picking upIf I had tried to go back the way I came, it would have been impossible until the tide started to slack.

 

Figure out at what point in the tide the current gets strongest (from a distance), and remember it will be even stronger on the bigger tides. No shame in heading back or sticking to calmer water if it’s questionable.
 

 

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Monitor weather and assume the worst.
Keep your head on a swivel. 
Group up with others on outing and keep in communication with them.

Avoid current that is equal to or greater than your power source (motor, peddle, paddle).

Consider the wind and current speeds and directions.

Be ready to fall in and self recover, having practiced in safer waters.

 

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Taking a few lessons  with a certified instructor is a good idea. As you gain skills and knowledge you can paddle in conditions much more safely.  Learning what your boat and skills are capable of is a great adventure on it's own.

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I would just take it slow.  Go out under ideal conditions to start.

 

The number one hazard to me is boats. Always assume they dont see you.  Because they often don’t until they are very close.  Make sure you have. A flag, horn, whistle , lights for night fishing and an exit plan for wherever you are fishing

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On the subject of equipment and staying safe.

 

Safety comes down to YOU.

 

For equipment, I carry the following:

 

PFD – wear it ALWAYS – the stuff below is on the PFD

Radio – one that floats and is waterproof

Whistle

Compass

Strobe

Knife

Cell phone

Contact info.  I have a laminated card with my name, and wife and son's phone numbers.  

 

On the Yak

Chart plotter/GPS/FF

Paddle w/leash

Small first aid kit (with small bolt cutters for hooks),  This stuff is in a food saver bag (vacuum sealed)

Flag w/light

Reflective tape on yak

Line for towing or getting towed

Recovery strap (for help getting back into a swamped yak) Know how to use it!

Small hand pump

Air horn - small

 

Now the biggest piece of equipment you should use is your HEAD!

   Understand what you are comfortable with.  Trust your instincts, they are almost always correct.  If you get to the launch and you feel uneasy, don’t launch.   No one can tell you if it is safe, that's on YOU!

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Also, another factor worth mentioning is being seen. You may be more or less visible to bigger boats. That said, I've been out in some conditions with my kayak and tolerated well where as I would have not boated in but definately weiry of boaters especially in low light or fog.

Edited by NHAngler

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The biggest problem with salt water kayak fishing is having to plan around wind and tide so you can get back where you started.

Also, getting used to ocean swells is key if you're venturing into the ocean.  A swell passing under you can easily make you lose your balance if you're not paying attention.

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First of all I would like to say that whatever advice that Jeff270 posted should be taken as a  kayak fishing LAW....Read all his advice again and you will be above the most.   As far as fishing in crazy conditions....only experience in conditions that you wouldn't think about going out in will make you more comfortable in your next trip out..... but always be prepared with all the right gear that will make it a safe trip.

 

Here is a short, poor quality video from a trip that I just got back from in Panama.   The conditions for the week were equal to this or worse.  have trust in your kayak and balance , through experience and you won't even worry about the conditions.   Plus, add on fighting a small tuna or any fish for 15 minutes in conditions like this and you will get the rush like nothing else.  

 

 

 

 

 

Danny V

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Took the Salty out today to continue shaking out. First half of the afternoon was good around slack tide. Fished nearly up to the tip of Deer Island from the Winthrop launch. Handled wakes and oncoming waves no problem. Wind and chop really picked up on the return.

She did ok quartering into the wind and waves but at some point I had to change direction to get back. Nail-biter with the wind and the chop broadside and rear quarter. Considering using the paddle for stability but had to keep a hand on the rudder and really muscle it.

I would say winds were 15-20, "waves" about 2 ft. 

I still need to go out on a similar day with an empty kayak so I feel better about flipping. Instead of tacking forever back to the launch or staying broadside to the elements for another mile or two, I rode the following seas into a beach because it was just getting too snotty.

 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

The windy.com website is incredibly accurate these days.  I'd strongly recommend you learn to use it and that you use it as your guide for when and where to go and by what time you need to be back to the launch before it starts to blow.  Learn what sheltered waters exist in your area that you can launch from when the wind is kicking.  You have to accept that there are times when you shouldn't take the kayak out.

Edited by mako capt

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