The nature of sea kayaking means that most people fairly quickly buy their own equipment, so they know that it suits them and is in good condition. The Club has a few kayaks, paddles etc to allow beginners to get started. Please look after these, and do tell a Club Committee Member if there are any defects or problems, so these can be dealt with.
The Club keeps its own equipment in the Club compound. It can store a few members’ boats in the containers. Please help keep the stores tidy and secure.
The following kit is required to be carried by each paddler on the appropriate trip grade.
Extra kit may be asked for by your Trip Leader e.g. helmets
a boat with built-in buoyancy or airbags so that it cannot sink, fitted with end toggles
spray deck – that fits your boat
food and drink
any medication you need (asthma puffers etc)
mobile phone in a waterproof bag/box
suitable clothing for the trip (check with Leader if in doubt)
spare clothing in a dry bag (extra layers)
hat (protection from sun or cold)
B grade - boat and kit as above
spare paddle if you have one
contact towline & long towline
rope cutter or knife
compass (handheld acceptable)
waterproof first aid kit
windproof over cagoule, shelter or cycle cape
C grade – kayak with watertight hatches, and the kit as above
spare paddle or arrange to share the use of one
compass - fitted to kayak
waterproof charts or map for trip
boat repair kit (duck tape or better)
VHF if you have one
flares or LED torch, and PLB in the group
survival bag or shelter
D grade – boat and kit as above plus
VHF (at least 2 per group)
There are a vast range of sea kayaks available to suit all body shapes and sizes and different paddling styles. Try before you buy. Talk to boat owners in the Club and look at reviews etc on the web and in magazines. You want a boat that you have confidence in, that feels stable or has good secondary stability, is under control and does not lee cock with your body weight. All designs are a compromise between stability at rest, speed, directional stability and manoeuvrability you have to find the one that suits you, your body shape, size and flexibility and your paddling habits.
These are the requirements for a sea kayak suitable for C and D grade trips.
Watertight hull and deck, capable of cruising at 3 knots.
Watertight compartments, this is the ideal, but slight leaks are common, be aware of how much yours leak, ill fitting covers, leaks around the bulkheads and skeg box/skeg wire are the most common problems. Airbags inside the compartments are always a good idea and essential if you have anything more than a very minor leak. Hatch covers should be in good condition and attached to the kayak so that they cannot get lost if they come off. Some hatch covers, for example, the oval hatches on plastic Valley boats are difficult to seat correctly, try wetting the hatch first.
End toggles - check the rope from time to time, there should not be a loop of rope big enough to trap a hand. Some are too far from the boat ends to be useful, in this case some extra rope and clever knots are required.
Deck lines - running to near the bow and stern but not around the cockpit, check that the tension makes them easy to hold. 5 mm is the minimum and 6 mm better, running them inside a plastic sleeve especially near bow and stern makes them easier to hold with cold wet hands.
Skeg- should be working if it has one, if one is not fitted you must practice paddling in a crosswind and find your method of controlling weather cocking. Always check it works before leaving the shore.
Rudder- these are less popular in the UK than in other countries and are mainly found on high performance race kayaks, if you have one experiment with how to use it.
Deck elastics are handy for securing maps and odds and ends, experiment to find the best way of stowing your splits. We have all lost equipment washed off the deck by breaking waves, so clipping items to the deck lines is recommended.
Like boats, paddles come in all shapes and sizes. A light paddle is a joy to use, but these are not cheap. Smaller blades are less tiring, but will require you to up your paddling cadence against the wind and tide. On the other hand few paddlers have the technique or strength to effectively use a paddle with a blade area suitable for an Olympic athlete. Large blades can often be the cause of wrist and elbow problems.
Narrow diameter and shorter paddle shafts are available for short people or those with small hands. Cranked handles suit some people and are said to reduce wrist problems. Try a range of types and sizes before buying and get used to a new paddle before coming on a long trip.
People tend to take these for granted, but choice of buoyancy aid is a serious safety issue. They have to fit correctly and not ride up when you are in the water. One with adjustment straps is likely to fit better than one without. Buy the right size. Sixty or 70 newtons will float you higher than 50 newtons, but maybe bulky for rolling. A minimalist BA with few or no pockets is handy for surfing and rescue practice.
However, for C and D trips some pockets for vital equipment and maybe a back pocket for a re-hydration water pouch are essential. For expeditions, large pockets are necessary to carry everything you need to have on you, especially if you are on your own.
Once you are separated from your boat, if it isn’t in your pockets, you haven’t got it. Practice swimming in your BA, the Club recommends that members can swim 50 m in their BA, towing or pushing their capsized kayak. We sometimes have a race on Monday nights, practice so you can come first.
There are 3 main types of spray deck; proofed nylon, neoprene and ‘Reed’.
Proofed nylon spray decks can often be adjusted for a range of cockpit sizes and are good as a spare, but suffer from rapid loss of water tightness and can ‘implode’ under the weight of water in large cockpits.
Neoprene decks are more expensive, but seal better and last longer, with rubber reinforcing around the edges they seal better and last longer. They are generally the only material used in whitewater kayaks now
Reed Chillcheater decks are nice to use and very good for expeditions as they are light, quick drying and don’t drip down your legs when you get out of the boat. However, they are not robust enough for rescue practice etc.
Rubber allergies are becoming more common, in that case, Reed is the only choice. Both neoprene and Reed must be the right size for the cockpit. Too loose and they will not seal, too tight and you might not be able to get them on or off by yourself, a problem if you are alone. Rinsing them in freshwater after every use and whenever possible on expeditions will prolong their life.
It takes quite a while to gain the experience necessary to judge how to dress for the conditions. Look at what other people are wearing and ask advice. Hypothermia is possible even on a sunny day in mid-Summer if you are not properly clothed. Inadequate clothing is a risk not only to yourself but also the security of the group. Sun stroke is also a hazard and can be due to not wearing enough clothes.
Most Club members accept getting wet in the Summer and dress to be warm when damp or wet. One or more synthetic thermal or rash vest type layers and a wind and spray proof cagoule, wet-suit trouser or shorts, or ¾ paddle pants which are a good compromise, or fabric paddle pants. Beach shoes, a sun hat, sun glasses and plenty of sun cream, even on cloudy days. If it is very warm, a short sleeved cag is useful and if it is blistering hot, paddling with the cag to hand rather than wearing it. Some paddlers continue to wear loose long sleeved tops in the summer as these provided better protection than sun cream. For back of the hands which are difficult to protect even with best of sun cream, wind surfers mitts can be used. There are also good for spring and autumn where pogies might be overkill.
The sea cools down and warms up slowly, so winter in paddling terms is from December to May and includes June in Scotland. Check the 'Chimet' website to see how warm/cold our local waters are.
Most Club members expect to stay dry in winter by wearing a dry suit with synthetic thermal layers underneath or a dry cag and dry trousers with several thermal layers underneath. If there is a leak or seepage, it is generally so slow that it doesn’t feel cold; but just feels damp when you come to sit down in the car. The alternative is a 'Long-john' wet suit. However one thick enough to keep you warm may also restrict movement. The extremities also need looking after, in fact it would foolhardy to attempt a winter paddle without taking the right clothing.
Thick neoprene footwear and 'pogies' or paddle mitts and a woolly hat and/or a neoprene or Reed balaclava will probably be necessary.
Modern cags (a kayak anorak) are often described as dry or semi dry, the distinction being in the neck and wrist seals. Latex seals are watertight, but can be hard to get on and off and they can eventually split. Neoprene seals are not 100% watertight, so a cag with these is termed semi-dry, they are easier to get on and off and longer lasting. Many people go for the compromise of latex wrist seals and a neoprene neck seal, maybe adding an extra thermal layer in case of getting damp. Reed chillcheater make an equivalent range. Rinsing in freshwater and drying cags and dry-suits far from radiators and hot pipes will greatly increase their lifespan.
Essentials for everyone
Compass and whistle, Drink and food, spare clothes in a dry bag, paddle and wind/waterproof top in summer.
A sponge is always useful to deal with those drips that accumulate in the boat. For men it can be handy if you cannot reach a beach...... Sponges float very low in the water, so wedging it somewhere will reduce losses if you come out of your boat.
For larger quantities of water a bilge pump is very handy. There are boat mounted possibilities for an electric pump if you are good at DIY, but electricity and salt water are uneasy companions. Foot operated pumps on the forward bulkhead are loosing popularity, they add weight and can only be operated when you are safely in the boat and cannot be lent to anyone else. Hand operated pumps mounted behind the seat cannot be fitted to modern boats which have the rear bulkhead just behind the seat. Hand held plastic bilge pumps are now the most common. The advantage being that you can pump out from outside the boat if necessary and you can lend your pump to someone else. Pumps come in a variety of shapes and lengths. Finding a suitable storage location is the main problem. Look at what people with a similar boat do and what shape of pump works for them.
Bucket shaped bailers are popular in France, but very seldom used here. The shape has to fit the cockpit floor.
Not for nothing is the expression ‘up the creek without a paddle’ used to describe putting yourself in a difficult situation. Although uncommon, it is possible to loose or break a paddle. Trip leaders will be carrying a spare or will make sure that spares are available. On grade C paddles it is advisable for everyone to carry their own spare pair of splits or Greenland paddle and to practice safe retrieval, use and stowage. It is essential on D grade trips. Look at other people to see how they stow their splits. The front deck is easier for retrieval and stowage on the water, but breaking waves can wash paddles off. Most people have some system, often involving sections of plastic pipe to stow them securely. Splits tend to fit more securely on the rear deck, but are more difficult to get at. Experiment and then test your system.
A paddle leash can provide a feeling of security if you think you might let go of the paddle. However, they are an entanglement risk. Elastic paddle leashes can result in the paddle jumping back from under the boat in a rescue, possibly injuring someone, usually the rescuer, who doesn’t deserve a paddle in the eye. Some people keep one rolled up around the paddle loom, to quickly attach the paddle if they are in a situation where it might be lost. A straw poll of Club members suggests that developing a quick way of stowing the paddle, often the deck lines are a better solution than the deck elastics, and learning to always hang on to the paddle is the preferred option.
Sooner or later, everyone will need a tow, even if it is only a few metres into safer water or away from breaking waves. A towline is also useful in tricky landings where you can swim ashore towing the boat and land it once you are securely on shore. Waist mounted and boat mounted towlines are readily available, or it is easy and much cheaper to make your own. You will also know exactly how strongly made it is. All towlines need to be quick release, so that in an emergency they can quickly be got rid of. A rescue knife is also recommended when towing, just in case.
Boat mounted towlines, with a cleat and fairlead mounted on the rear deck are good for long distance towing. Waist mounted towlines are based on a belt with a cam-lock buckle which can be instantly released, they are more flexible and can be lent to someone else. Both types require practice to use swiftly and effectively. Monday evening training covers this.
Long lengths of line (15 m or more) are recommended for sea towlines so that a towing boat is well out of the way if the towed boat started surfing towards it. However, some 5 star coaches now recommend shorter lengths and to always tow diagonally across the waves, so that the boats cannot surf into each other. Very short towlines often of webbing used for inland paddling are not suitable.
A towline can be handy for mooring a boat if landing in deep water against rocks or a quay, especially if the tide is rising or dropping quickly. A towline tied into a short loop can be used as a stirrup to help an injured or tired person back into their boat. A towline can hold up a bivouac shelter or be used as a washing line to dry kit.
These will fit into a 5 litre drybag: Synthetic or wool top and bottoms, lightweight wind and waterproof top and overtrousers, warm socks, wooly hat, plus in winter a warm but easily compressible jacket or a fleece.
Don’t rely on your hatches staying completely dry, use dry bags to organize your kit and to keep it safe. For something which MUST stay dry, a dry bag inside a dry bag inside a dry hatch is the way to go, or use rigid dry boxes. The maximum size of filled dry bag which can be loaded into a standard small round hatch is 5l. Even with larger hatches several small dry bags are often easier to manipulate than one large one or packing and sealing a dry bag whilst it is in the boat.. Colour or number coding allows any item to be located quickly. Dry bags don’t last forever, so check them from time to time. Thicker material tends to have a longer lifespan, but some of the rubbery texture very robust bags become stiff and impossible to use in very cold weather.
First aid kit
The bare minimum is a roll of duct tape and stretchy electrians tape. First Aid training is more useful than carrying a large First Aid kit. However, a small outdoor first aid kit will cover most minor problems, a Resusi-aid is a useful addition, but hopefully you will never have to use it. If you are prone to tendonitis, carrying a neoprene wrist support and ibuprofen tablets and cream might be worthwhile.
Boat repair kit
That same roll of duct tape is the bare minimum. Other useful items are epoxy putty, UV setting epoxy impregnated glass fibre patches, a good general purpose waterproof glue, sikaflex sealant/adhesive, needle and thread, swatches of waterproof fabric, tenacious tape, latex gloves for handling the glues and wet and dry sanding paper to prepare surfaces. These can all be packed into a small water tight plastic box. The box itself could be cut up for a patch.
Spray decks can be ripped, so carrying a spare one, at least within the group is a good idea. Hatch covers can be lost, this risk is minimised by attaching the covers to the boat and replacing them before they perish, the minimum spare being a bin liner and thin rope. Longer lasting emergency hatch covers can be made out of a piece of nylon fabric, and some cord in a drawstring arrangement. A spare skeg wire cut to size with the tools to fit it is good for multi-day trips, unfortunately this is usually boat specific.
A trolley is useful where there is a long walk from the car park to the water. They tend to be bulky, so try out one to see if you can stow it successfully before buying. The forces on a trolley over even moderately rough ground are substantial, so they must be solidly built. For solo trips the trolley is almost an essential.
Rope or webbing slings with handles are very popular in France, where the often long and rocky foreshore at LW is unsuitable for trolleys. With 2 of these, 4 people can carry even a heavily laden boat some distance in comfort, of course it means making several trips. It is easy to make your own. They can double up as a rescue aid for getting back into the boat.
The minimum legal lighting requirement for a sea kayak out on the water after lighting up time is a means of warning other vessels in time to avoid a collision. This could be a waterproof torch easily accessible under the deck elastics. It is always a good idea to carry such a torch, just in case. However, other shipping will expect you to show an all round steady white light, visible at some distance after dark. Experiments with the RNLI show that the higher the better and most Club members have an arrangement such that a white dive marker light, fixed in a plastic tube and attached to their buoyancy aid is well above head height. This is also the only means of ensuring that your body does not obscure the light in any direction and that the light doesn’t affect paddlers’ night vision. We have a good reputation with QHM and local shipping for safe night paddling and to maintain this, all members joining night paddles must be properly lit. A group of lights is much more visible than one on its own, that can easily be lost amongst background lights on the shore, so keeping in a tight group is very important. There are several brands of suitable dive markers, ask Club members for their recommendations.
On somewhere like the Upper Hamble, which has almost no background lights and no shipping, a couple of glowsticks attached to the paddler and a torch to hand if necessary would be sufficient.
For Thames paddles with dazzling background lighting and heavy shipping, the brighter the lights the better, but once again, research has shown that keeping in a tight group is the best way of making yourself visible. Contact the trip leader in good time to discuss lighting requirements. See the Port of London Authority for more advice.
VHF, Flares, EPIRB/PLB
Club trip leaders will be carrying all or some of these. When you have a chance, find out how to use them, as it could be up to you to call for help.
A Club PLB is now available for Trip Leaders to borrow.29 Dec 2017