The near-tragic kayak accident at Coopers Cove on April 13 could easily have resulted in the death of a 58-year-old East Sooke resident and it all could have been avoided had the kayaker taken the proper precautions and participated in as little as a one-day-course in kayaking, say officials.
Scot Taylor, one of the locals who helped rescue the man and likely saved his life, operates the West Coast Adventure College in Sooke where sea kayak guides are trained. He said kayakers need to think ahead and prepare themselves for emergency situations.
“I tell people to ask themselves four questions: have I checked the weather; am I bringing all the equipment that I need; do I know where I’m going and how long it’ll take me to get there; and have I filed a plan with someone with the information they need to summon help if I go missing?”
Taylor added the equipmentkayakers need to have before venturing out on the water includes a change of clothing (in a dry bag), a sleeping bag, a signalling device such as a whistle, a pump or other bailing device, a throw bag (containing a rope) a spray skirt and a spare paddle.
“They should also be wearing a personal flotation device and an immersion suit to protect them if they capsize.” he said.
“If the man we found on Saturday had been wearing a suit, he wouldn’t have become hypothermic to the degree he did.”
The kayaker had been out with his wife in the Sooke Basin when the weather turned and winds and waves began to batter the couple. He capsized but his wife managed to paddle to a nearby marina to summon help.
By the time local mariners arrived, the man had managed to get to shore but was severely hypothermic and barely conscious.
Taylor said that, while in this case, the kayakers were in true sea kayaks, choosing the proper kayak is the first challenge. He stressed kayaks sold at some retail outlets may only be suitable for calm, lake waters and not for the open ocean.
“Sea kayaks have internal bulkheads that prevent them from flooding so they can be righted if they capsize. they have enough buoyancy to stay afloat so you can get back in and bail out the water and get back underway,” he said.
Ron Neitsch, the owner of 2 Reel Fishing Adventures, the first on the scene and the first to spot the shivering kayaker on the rocky shore, reiterated Taylor’s observations.
“That man is lucky that he got help when he did. That cove can get very rough and you can have a false sense of security when you set out. Then a wind comes up and conditions can change very quickly,” said Neitch. “You need to be trained and you need to be aware.”
Taylor added that kayak training should only be provided by certified Paddle Canada instructors.
The victim of the April 13 accident has since recovered and has been released from the hospital.