Archive for the ‘Kayak Safety’ Category

Training for open water crossing

Posted: January 10, 2011 by Jeff Fabiszewski in Expeditions, Kayak Safety

Sean and I have an opportunity to go on a special journey in a few months.  We are keeping it secret for now, but we will be giving you updates on our training to get into shape for the adventure.   Our goal is to be mentally and physically ready to cross greater than 30 miles of open water.

Saturday 9:30 am to 8:30 pm

I loaded my Chatham 17 with what I think I will be using during our future three day open-water trip.  The overall weight of my camping kit is around 25 to 35 pounds.  Without food and water my camping gear is only 20 pounds.

In my day hatch I carried lights for night-time navigation, a dry-bag with a warmer hat and shirt, blood oranges, nectarines, chocolate covered raisins, Reese’s Pieces, dried salami, pumpkin cookies, and four liters of water.¬† On my deck I had a spare paddle, 3 liter hydration bag, paddle float, G.P.S., and chart.

My float plan was to leave from Dunedin Marina and paddle south for 15 miles towards Travestine Island then paddle back to the marina.  As a part of my plan I sent a picture text to Sean and my wife every three miles (every hour).  Even with the changing winds and currents through the inter-coastal I kept a good pace averaging 3.5 miles per hour.  Although, I did have to slow down to adjust my layers while on the water due to the changing winds and cloud cover; I also took three 20 minute breaks to stretch the legs.

When I saw the marina and looked at the G.P.S. I discovered that I had shaved off a half mile on the return.  For a moment I entertained the idea of paddling past my starting point to make up the distance.  Well, that idea lasted one paddle stroke and I paddled to the beach.  Sometimes the mind overcomes the body and other times the body wins. LOL.

*   *   *

I learned four important things on this 30 mile journey…

  • Waking up in the morning and being motivated knowing I was going to paddle 30 miles¬†was not easily done
  • The first 5 miles were the hardest.¬† I was stiff, and unsure of my endurance
  • The final hour of paddling was daunting.¬† I wanted to get out of the boat
  • Being alone in a kayak for eleven hours is a surreal experience.¬† No paddling buddies to entertain or to motivate me to push on.¬† Every sound alerted me.¬† And two days after paddling my abdominal muscles still feel like I did more than 1000 sit ups.

And guess what, I am looking forward to my next 30 mile paddle in two weeks.

– Jeff

published in Canoe News, Summer 2011, Vol 44 No 2, p.6

Working at a college gives me the benefit of a two week vacation from Dec 18th to Jan  2nd, so one would think that I got a lot of kayak camping in.  Unfortunately, I spent more time on land catching up on the basic day to day stuff.  But the time I did get out to camp was perfect.

Sean and I camped out on an island on two separate nights¬† Dec 23rd to the 24th and Dec 30th to the 31st.¬† Both times we parked at the west side of Tom Stuart Causeway north of the drawbridge.¬† It is not well lit at night and it is also a dog park, thus walking at night with a kayak to the water’s edge can be a smelly and squishy event.¬† Never the less, the location is a good place to launch.

Before getting on the water I outfitted my kayak with two deck lights on the stern.¬† The smaller one has a suction cup on it; where as, the taller light has a bungee and locking cam to keep it on the deck.¬† Kayalu makes the taller light “Kayalite”.¬† I have had it for about nine months and used it on several types of kayaks.¬† It is a good piece of kit.¬† (A detailed review is now available).

On December 23rd we paddled east into Boca Ciega Bay to Archie’s Island.¬† It was mild and in the upper 40’s F.¬† The moon was almost full and the tide was unusually high.¬† When we got to Archie’s there was a group also camping on the island.¬† We saw their powerboat on the east side of the island and gave them plenty of space.¬† We set up our tents behind some brush and started boiling water for dinner.

We went simple and ate Pad Thai by Backpacker’s Pantry, hot coco, and Freeze-Dried Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.¬† Yum.

We could hear the wind howl during the night.¬† And for a moment I thought I hear our neighbor’s powerboat engine come on.¬† In the morning there was so much sea foam on the shore it looked like mini icebergs.¬† But that was not the most surprising thing we saw.

The people who were camping on the east side of the island did move their boat.¬† And they anchored it like amateur boaters.¬† The Carolina Skiff was high and dry with the Yamaha engine’s propeller locked and buried vertical into the shell encrusted beach.¬† Ouch.

On December 30th we paddled west into the inter coastal waterway to Travestine Island.  We took our time getting to the island.  We looked at the Christmas lights on the local condos and meandered through some mangrove tunnels near an island.  This was tricky at night and we had to paddle backwards after entering a tunnel.  When we got on to Travestine we also discovered we had a neighbor so we gave kayaker some distance.

We set up camp and started boiling water for dinner.  Sean and I both received some new pieces of kit during Christmas.  And it was time to test it out.  I got a Snowpeak GigaPower Stove, and Sean got a GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist Cook System. 

I always cook with a bunsen burner pad to distribute the heat.¬† And this worked great with the Snowpeak.¬† The only thing I now want to add to my kit is a Snowpeak windscreen.¬† Because I can see cooking on a beach without one could be a problem.¬†¬† Sean’s GSI Cook System worked great, but I still prefer my GSI kettle, Sea to Summit collapsible X-Mug, and Snowpeak chopsticks.

In the morning there was evidence on the shore of the effects of cold water.  There were several juvenile horseshoe crabs dead and washed up under a dead tree.

Before breaking down camp we fired up the stove to have some coffee.  Sean was a little skeptical about trying Starbucks VIA Ready Brew coffee.  We had the Italian Roast and it was great!

As we were paddling back to Tom Stuart Causeway we saw our neighbor on the water.  He was sailing his Hobie kayak.  He was having fun in that boat.  Given the chance, I would try sailing that type of kayak.


Warning not all shops have trained instructors.  I am not going to rat anyone out but there is a reason why I am writing this post.  I wanted to bring this to your attention.

With hard economic times some shops are claiming that they uphold a level of safety by claiming that they hold an ACA certification.  Now, I know several instructors who are honest about why they do not belong to the ACA or associate themselves with the BCU.  And these people do not pass themselves off as ACA or BCU members (we can debate their whys in the comments)

I am only focusing on the liers. I think they are claiming that they are members of the American Canoe Association and or the British Canoe Union to compete with other retailers and local ACA / BCU instructors.  A person can still be safty minded if they do not belong; however, if an instructor starts with a lie can you trust them with your safety?  I think safety should always come first and I question just how safe these people are on the water.

Most ACA and BCU Instructors adhere to the guidelines of the organization that certified them for paddling knowledge and water safety.  This means that they teach in a prescribed manor.   The ACA and BCU want their instructors to teach a particular way to increase the safety of the student.  It is the same philosophy behind being taught CPR by a certified instructor.

I think all Certified ACA Instructors and BCU Coaches should always teach by a set of guidelines.  I do not want to see a retailer put the safety of the paddling community in jeopardy by claiming that they are safe because they are certified by the ACA and yet do not see a need to teach ACA classes.  If you find a shop claiming to have certified instructors and do not teach ACA  or BCU classes, run.

An instructor claiming to be certified should be able to produce their membership card, instructor card, and CPR card.  It is now required of ACA instructors to be CPR trained.

American Canoe Association

ACA Instructor Maintenance Requirements: BY the end of the 4 year certification period, the following minimum maintenance requirements must be met in order for the certification to be renewed for an additional 4 years:

  • Maintain annual ACA membership and SEIC registration
  • Teach a minimum of two (2) properly reported courses at the appropriate level of certification
  • Participate in an Instructor Update during the certification period.

Instructor Updates can be accomplished by one of the following methods:

  • Participate in an actual Instructor Update course at¬†your highest certification level
  • Assist with an IDW or ICE at the highest level of certification (with the pre-approval of the facilitaint IT) and complete a review of ACA Policies & Procedures with the IT
  • Complete an approved Endorsement (check¬†with the¬†SEI Department beforehand)
  • Co-teach a skills course at your highest level of certification under the supervision of¬†an IT in that discipline and complete a review of ACA Policies & Procedures with the IT.

Hello Paddlers!
Just wanted to drop in a quick post about the Gulfcoast Sea Kayak Symposium this weekend here in St. Petersburg, Fl. It is put together by Russell Farrow at Sweetwater Kayaks. Jeff and I will be there working and of course gaining some knowledge from other paddlers. Nigel Foster, Greg Stamer, Kristin Nelson, Jen Kleck, & John Carmody are just a few of the instructors that will be on hand to teach and talk to. So if you are anywhere near Sweetwater Kayaks on Gandy Bridge in St. Petersburg, Fl. this weekend stop in and say HI!!

                                                                                        РJeff & Sean