Kayaking on Your Vacation

By: Tamara Camden

Kayaks can be a lot of fun for both men and women. However, the sport can be dangerous if certain precautions are not taken, and many of us who kayak on vacation are inexperienced beginners.

Case in point, our family travels frequently to Eleuthera, a Bahamas out-island. Recently two men kayaking there became lost at sea. Their panicked wives had the local emergency team and Coast Guard dispatched, and fortunately a couple of local men who volunteered to search found the kayakers first, and rescued them about nine miles offshore. One of the primary reasons these kayakers were saved is because they told someone ahead of time on land (their wives) that they were going out. These kayakers were very fortunate in this instance.

So here are some recommendations when kayaking on your vacation, whether you have rented a kayak from a kayak vendor, or if one was provided with your rental home:

1. Check the weather forecast in advance. Definitely do not go out if the weather is inclement, windy or stormy. If the weather is currently calm, but predicted to deteriorate, then do not go out. You don't want to be out in the water with strong winds, swells, and lightning.

2. It is recommended to kayak with a buddy, instead of going out alone.

3. Tell someone on land that you are going out, and your expected arrival time, so that in the event that you do not show up on time, your land-based contact can get the emergency rescue operation started. Your land-based contact should have handy the US Coast Guard or the applicable Country's Sea & Rescue Operation Phone number, and the local emergency phone number, such as 911 in the United States. Your cell phone may not work in the ocean.

4. As a beginner, only kayak next to the shoreline. Winds and tides can dramatically change, and you don't want the tide to carry you too far offshore.

5. Always wear your lifejacket.

6. When you are moving your kayak into and out of the water, be careful not to drag it and scratch it along the rocks. Also, be careful to keep a hold of your paddles and not to lose them out to sea (it may be harder to get back to shore). Also, the kayak owners will appreciate care of their equipment as it is expensive to replace.

7. Take a couple bottles of water, and some snacks if desired. Drinking alcoholic beverages is strongly NOT recommended, as it may cause the kayaker to lose his/her inhibitions and travel too far off shore, to the point of no return.

Kayaking can be a fun, rejuvenating sport, especially in calmer waters. Just remember to practice safety!

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