Tips to avoid an on water collision

Sunday, 09 September 2007
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This morning I came upon this article which shook me up. It seems that a body was found about two miles offshore from Rye in the English Channel. The kayaker's boat was found floating near by.

The coastguard said that man's injuries and the damage to the canoe suggested he had been run down by a ship and killed.

Over the past summer, there have been several different reports of large boats running over canoe, kayaks and small sail boats.

Kayak Collision Before, I could never understand how a paddler could get run over by a boat. I always figured that one could always move out of the way in time. My opinion of it changed this summer after hearing about a friend of the family whose little fishing boat was run over by a large powerboat. According to them, they were out fishing on a clear, calm day when they looked up just in time to see a large boat bearing down on them. They just had enough time to dive off the side of the boat before impact. They were fine but sadly the boat was quite damaged. It is schedule to go to court this fall.

So, how can we keep ourselves from getting hit on the water? The first thing is to be vigilant on the water. Watch the other boaters and assume that they can't see you. To be honest, the majority probably can't. They are big so it is easy for you to see them but a canoe or kayak is barely three feet out of the water. When there are medium swells and you are in the trough of the wave, you are even lower in the water. Keep that in mind.

Follow the rules of the road. Just because you are in a canoe or kayak doesn't mean that you need to follow the rules like everybody else. If possible, avoide the shipping channels since that is where the large boats are going to be.

Consider a radar reflector.  There are several different commercial models on the market with various levels of success. Basically they allow your boat to show up on the larger vessels radar system. The main draw back is that not all small or recreational boats use radar for navigation.

If you are paddling through navigational channels, you could consider a Collision Avoidance Radar Detector (C.A.R.D.) system. The C.A.R.D. system is a device that you mount on your boat that detects the presence of radar systems in your area. The monitor will tell you from which direction the radar system is coming from so you can take evasive action.

The drawback to the C.A.R.D system is that it is another electronic system to fail on your boat. It is built for a marine environment but not likely submersible so you will need to be careful with it around water. If you could develop a way to store it in a clear waterproof case, it might work better.

If you are doing extended night crossings, it might be something worth looking into.

Have you had experience with any of the devices above or have a tip to avoid a collision on the water? Let us know how they worked out by posting a comment below.

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David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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