Essential Gear - good advice, no matter what boat you own

'Here's the cool thing about paddling: While it is a relatively easy thing to do, doing it well consistently is surprisingly hard. Perhaps that's part of the enduring appeal, and why it's called a 'lifetime' sport. The ease of forward propulsion gets you out on the water, and the difficulty of mastering the mechanics, balance, and subtleties of reading water keep you there. To refine your stroke for the maximum glide, to use the dynamic properties of water to your best advantage, to relax in and enjoy rough water - well, it's an addictive challenge, a never-ending learning curve.'

                                                                                  - Joe Glickman

SURVIVAL GEAR from the Kayak Companion by Joe Glickman

The bottom line is that the consistent volatility of life on the water makes it necessary to carry certain equipment with you virtually every time you venture away from land for any length of time. Unless you're paddling briefly on a pond or modest-sized lake on a calm day, here's the basic survival gear you should carry, even in warm weather.

  • Personal floatation device (PFD) or life jacket . Spare paddle
  • Pump or bailing device
  • Whistle
  • Compass
  • Headlamp
  • Waterproof matches or lighter
  • Knife
  • Food and water
  • Waterproof jacket or space blanket

This may sound like a lot, but it won't take up much room in your kayak, and if things get really ugly, these items could save your life. Some people consider a cell phone and Global Positioning System (GPS) essential items. I'm not one of those guys. But I do recognize how valuable each could be if you're stranded, lost, or injured.

Of course, it's not enough just to carry a cell phone with you. Two summers ago, I was paddling in the Atlantic to prepare for World Outrigger Championship, a 42-mile open-ocean crossing from Molokai to Oahu. To practice the in-water changes the race required, nine men took turns paddling the six-seat outrigger. The three waiting to rotate in followed in a motorboat. Substitutions took place every 15 minutes or so, in the water. Three hours into our training session, we were a mile off shore outside the Rockaways in Queens, Long Island. Soon after a water change, the outboard sputtered and died. As the outrigger paddled off, breaking waves started to fill the powerboat. We bailed furiously until we went belly up. One of the paddlers did have a cell phone with him - until it sank along with his car keys. Who would have thought of putting a PFD on a phone? Luckily there was an onshore wind and the water was warm. We started swimming, towing the boat to shore, and an hour later we were in sight of a crowded beach. About 30 people with cell phones dialed 911 as we safely surfed to a landing with our disabled boat. I appreciated their concern, although all it got us was a stern lecture from the Coast Guard.

             -from the Kayak Companion