Environment Waikato said today that the accident at Whangamata on Wednesday evening when a sit-on kayak was swamped and sank was a timely reminder to all users of sit-on kayaks.
One of the two occupants managed to swim 200 metres to shore and raise the alarm but the other man is still missing, presumed drowned. He was not wearing a buoyancy aid.
Sit-on kayaks do not have inbuilt buoyancy and if a hatch is left open the kayak will fill up with water and the kayak will sink.
“Many families will be getting new kayaks for Christmas presents and it is important that the new owners understand how to use them safely,” says EW’s navigation safety manager Shelley Monrad.
A few simple rules will help keep the occupants safe:
• Always wear a correctly fitting buoyancy aid.
• Sit-on kayaks need to have additional buoyancy added in case a hatch is lost and the inside fills with water. This can be as simple as adding a number of empty plastic bottles, or pieces of closed cell foam. It is critical that the kayak will float horizontally when full of water and have sufficient buoyancy to support the weight of the paddler(s).
• Tell someone where you are going.
• Take a means of communication in a waterproof plastic bag, such as a cell phone or vhf radio.
• Unless you are very experienced do not go out when the wind is blowing off shore – a kayak will blow away much faster than you can swim.
The brochure ‘A new Kayak…what now?’ is available at www.ew.govt.nz/kayak(external link), and from kayak outlets, Environment Waikato and Coastguard.
Coastguard Boating Education runs courses specifically for new kayak owners. Details can be obtained from any branch of Coastguard, or from the Coastguard Boating Education website www.cbes.org.nz(external link) under speciality courses – Sea Kayak
The kayak course is four hours run either as a single session or over two evenings. It is also available as a Home Study Course.