Members must comply with all gear requirements for lightweight craft specified in the Tasmanian Marine and Safety (General) Regulations 2013.
The club’s Gear Requirements reflect both the legal requirements and our own requirements which in some areas go above and beyond what is legally required.
At an absolute minimum, members on every trip must have:
- Buoyancy vest i.e. a life jacket or PFD (Personal Flotation Device) Type 2 or Type 3 that must be worn at all times on the water.
- Clothing that is comfortable, warm and safe to paddle in. With the proliferation in paddle clothing over the last few years, there is a wide range of options available for paddlers, but as a standard, you should dress for immersion in the water and appropriately to the current water temperature. In winter and spring a ‘long john’ style wetsuit, dry-suit or winter specific paddling clothing is recommended. Essential items are a wind-proof jacket and appropriate footwear, such as wetsuit booties. Brightly coloured gear is recommended for on water visibility.
- Trip worthy kayak with all-round deck lines and bulkheads. Unused space taken up with enough flotation at both ends to ensure the kayak floats horizontally if the hull is punctured. On a longer trip this may be camping gear e.g. sleeping bag or clothes bags sealed in dry bags, empty plastic bottles or on a day trip with an emptier boat some inflatable devices such as wine bladders, a beach ball or swimming life-ring. The club sells wine bladders to members for just this purpose. Sit on top vessels may be allowed on some trips, but this is entirely at the discretion of the trip coordinator.
- Tethering device (eg. Paddle Tether or tow rope) as per MAST regulations which require a tether to be carried if paddling more than 200 metres off shore.
- A bailer or bilge pump, eg. a large sponge and a failsafe means of emptying large volumes of water out of the boat (hand pump or a well maintained electric or foot pump).
- Spray deck, unless using a sit on top in which case a leg-tether is mandatory.
- All round white light with 360 degree visibility if you expect to paddle between sunset and sunrise. This is a legal requirement and a single white light behind the paddler has been deemed by MAST to be insufficient as it is not visible from in front. Two lights, or a single light on a high stick are viable solutions. Additional lighting, such as a waterproof torch or waterproof strobe light, may be useful, bearing in mind that strobe lights are blinding to other paddlers.
- Whistle, worn on or in pockets of, PFD.
All members are encouraged to have the following items, but at the Trip Coordinators discretion members can participate in Novice and Basic Skills level trips without them, so long as each group has sufficient supplies and meets MAST guidelines:
- Spare breakdown paddle that is accessible on deck.
- A means of stabilizing the boat, such as a paddle float, for re-entry after capsize and a wet exit.
- Water and food accessible whilst on the water.
- Waterproof bag with a dry set of warm clothes and waterproof layer securely stored inside the kayak.
- Spare shoes. These are very important if you have to abandon your boat and walk out from a trip.
- Sun protection such as sunscreen, sunglasses and hat.
- Tow line that is immediately usable and can be quickly attached to another boat.
- Personal First Aid kit in a waterproof container.
- Additional food and drink, allowing some in excess of the trip requirements.
- Relevant map or maps for the trip, waterproofed by lamination or a plastic case.
- Compass* eg. deck compasss or bushwalking type.
- Basic repair kit appropriate to your boat and gear, at least a roll of duct tape, spare cord and a small knife. Longer trips might require a more comprehensive ‘group repair kit’ for fibre-glassing work.
- EPIRB or PLB.*
- VHF – handheld.*
* It is now a mandatory requirement that one in every three people in a group carry one for Coastal Waters, ie. on proficient or advanced trips, but the club recommends that each member have their own and know how to use them.
Gear Selection Guide for New Members
This guide is designed to provide beginner sea kayakers with a guide to clothing and equipment. Experience will necessarily modify this advice but in the short term it may at least save wasted hours (and dollars!) in gear shops and at best avoid paddling with inadequate and possibly unsafe gear.
While the Tasmanian sea canoeing club generally caters for members with their own gear we accept that initially people may wish to "try it out" before committing themselves to the expense of investing in their own gear. This is certainly good practice. The club owns a fibreglass Greenlander sea kayak (made from the club mould) which is available for hire to members at $10 per day. The Greenlander comes with paddle, personal flotation device (PFD), spraydeck, paddle float and hand bilge pump. Other personal items such as paddling clothing and the means to transport the kayaks are left to the hirer. Conditions apply so speak to the boat custodians (available on our website).
Hypothermia and exposure to the sun are the main things to protect against. You must be able to float and swim in whatever you wear paddling.
There is a wide choice of suitable clothing on the market so shop around and try a range before you buy. You must feel comfortable in whatever you wear, it is a working garment, and you don’t want it to rub, annoy or restrict your movement.
In winter our sea temperatures are around 8 C. Paddlers are often wet from spray and rain, let alone capsize, and wind can add a substantial chill factor. There are various levels of dressing practice:
The safest clothing for cold conditions is an all over dry suit, but at around $500+ they are a significant investment and members aren’t expected to have one. They can also be too warm in hot conditions.
We recommend either a long john style wet suit or some of the expanding range of paddle specific kayaking gear that is now available and designed for cold water conditions.
If buying a wetsuit, ensure the arm holes allow you complete freedom of shoulder movement, and that you are comfortable sitting with your legs out in front of you. The thickness of the neoprene is a matter of personal choice, a compromise between cold protection and ease of movement and comfort.
Thermal underwear and/or fibrepile tops or woollen jumpers can be worn under the wet suit. In warm conditions a wet suit gets hot to paddle in, but should you suddenly have an unplanned and prolonged "swim" it could save your life.
Some paddlers find a wetsuit too restrictive and uncomfortable, and prefer to dress in thermal clothing with a woolly jumper. While this is comfortable to paddle in, this clothing affords no protection in the water. They are assuming that if they capsize they will not be in the water for more than a few minutes. They are counting on a quick roll or rescue to save them. They need to have plenty of dry clothing at hand to keep them warm if they have to stop paddling, or once rescued.
Cotton garments afford no protection at all when wet and should not be worn - in fact cotton is used in tropical climates to "wick away" the heat. On top of your wet suit / jumper whatever you will need a windproof spray jacket, one that is easy to don and remove in changing conditions. Some paddlers buy cags with neoprene seals at collar and cuffs - these can be almost dry even in serious conditions, others use a lightweight nylon rain jacket - this keeps the wind out but not the wet. A hat is advisable - an ear-protecting head band is comfortable, or a beanie - for really cold conditions e.g. winter surf or a blizzard on an inland lake, a neoprene helmet is great. In cold water gloves add to comfort - washing up gloves afford wind chill protection, some like to use neoprene gloves - ask about paddle pogees!
Reflection from the water intensifies the dangers associated with over exposure to the sun. Sun screen for all exposed skin, lip salve, sun glasses and a hat brim or screen for the eyes are essential all year round. Hats must be secured with a chin strap or similar and a drape behind the neck is advisable. Long sleeves are recommended - usually your lower half is sealed inside the boat, so sun protection for legs is more an issue on land.
You must be able to swim, walk on rough ground, sharp and slippery rocks, glass etc. and you are guaranteed to get wet feet. Wet suit booties are recommended. Otherwise, a light pair of sandshoes, or rafting sandals if the weather is warm generally suffices to start with.
Take some high energy and relatively waterproof snacks and a drink even for short paddles. Changing conditions sometimes keep you active longer than anticipated.
Paddling is a wet game. Once on land you need to change into dry gear from the skin out. One does not always land where planned so come prepared with a waterproofed bag containing a full change of dry warm clothes to carry in the boat with you. A space blanket or nylon flysheet is useful as a wind shield if sitting around lunching / waiting out weather / emergency stops etc. And when you get back on the water, make sure you keep those dry clothes dry!
Kayak Specific Gear
"PFD" stands for personal flotation device. We suggest you buy a PFD type 2, distinguished from PFD 3 by the use of (sensible) bright colours. This is not a life-jacket. It aids your buoyancy when you are in the water. It has no collar and therefore does not keep your head supported, so survival depends on you being conscious and in control. Your PFD must not hinder your paddling - the armholes must be free, and the buoyancy panels concentrated on the front and back, with minimal bulk at the sides. Any bulk below the waist will interfere with the spray skirt fit. Your PFD must fit snugly and firmly - if loose it will ride over your head in the water, which is both dangerous and a nuisance. PFDs are essential safety gear, are always worn and a legal requirement.
The spray deck seals you into the cockpit of the boat. Sea kayaks come with a variety of cockpit shapes, rims and sizes, so each boat has a specific spray deck. Generally, suitable spray decks can be hired along with the boat; until you have determined what boat and consequently what spray deck you will purchase or make for yourself. The large multifit nylon spray decks which fit most boats may not be sufficiently tight on smaller cockpit rims and tend to puddle the water in your lap, which drips through onto your legs.
A neoprene spray deck, fitting snugly around your torso under the PFD, and tight as a drum over the cockpit, is a great aid to comfort and security. Most seats are set a little forward of the back rim, so your spray skirt needs some flare behind as well as the obvious apron in front - check you can lean forward when “clipped in” to your boat. When you fit the spray deck to the cockpit ensure the release tab is firmly attached to the spray deck and always on the outside ready to grab. When using an unfamiliar spray deck, practise releasing it before you put to sea.
Paddles are crucial - a good paddle feels like 7 league boots in comparison to a poor paddle. Don’t expect to borrow people’s personal paddles other than to swap for a few minutes on a trip. For around $100 you can buy a reasonably sturdy plastic paddle, suitable for beginners, but investing in a more expensive lightweight sea paddle will be well worth the investment for regular paddlers.
Sea paddlers have traditionally used longer paddles than river kayakers do, due to the different boat and paddling techniques required. Paddles come in a variety of materials, sizes, blade shapes and degree of blade off set – there’s no right or wrong paddle, you’ll need to talk with people and try their paddles to determine what suits your needs.
The club recommends that members carry at least two flares on every trip. MAST also recommends they be carried in sheltered waters in undertaking a passage, and they are mandatory if paddling in Coastal Waters.
There are several different types of flares.
- Red hand held flares are suitable for both day and night and give off a bright light for about 45 seconds when set off.
- Orange smoke flares are only suitable for day time use, but are very visible to aircraft.
- Parachute distress flares are suitable for both day and night and eject a rocket up to 300 metres high, providing a great chance to be seen. They should be released at a 60-75 degree offset, and some kayakers are nervous about carrying and releasing them in kayaks.
- Laser flares are not yet recognised in Australia as an ‘official’ flare, however they are compact, reusable and easily carried in a PFD pocket. Several members in the club carry them and the technology is improving.
Generally members would carry a red and orange hand flare as a minimum. Remember that flares need to be looked after and they have an expiry date. They should also be carried in an easily accessible location so they can be set off in an emergency.
VHF radios can be used to access weather reports, communicate with fellow paddlers, fishing boats, other craft etc and send/receive urgency (pan-pan) or distress calls.
At least one in three people in any paddling group in coastal waters must carry a VHF radio. They are not however mandatory for most trips (though they can be useful for group communications).
MAST has a complete coverage of the Tasmanian coastline through repeater stations operated by Tas Maritime Radio.
VHF handheld radios are available from a little over $100 to over $700 (2014) Some float, some have GPS and some have DSC (Digital Selective calling that allows communication with an individual ship or group of ships. Can also broadcast position and MMSI identifier to everyone in the reachable area in an emergency situation.)
VHF handhelds in Australia typically work at 3 to 5 watts and it should be noted that imported US units using 6 watts are illegal in Australia. Battery life typically 15 to 16 hrs with normal use. If kept only on standby a week of usage is not unlikely (turned on only when on the water).
They should be carried on your person, not in the dayhatch.
VHF handhelds only work on line of sight so for a sea kayaker talking to another sea kayaker, 3 to 5 kms is maximum, and being line of sight, coverage can be zero close to cliffs etc.
Currently require a license to be operated, but MAST are looking at bringing in a shorter operators course.
In summary they are a very handy item and are heavily underutilised within the club as newer members often rely on others to carry a VHF radio initially and it is not one of their first purchases.
All round white light
Light water craft users in Tasmania are required to carry (and use) a White Strobe Light or all round light with 360 degree visibility if they expect to paddle between sunset and sunrise when legally you must have one available. Additional lighting, such as bike lights or waterproof torches, may be useful.
White Strobe Lights are very bright and can be blinding to other paddlers, so while the club encourages members to carry one, they are best used in emergency situations. All around white lights designed for kayaks can be bought at most kayaking stores and many outdoor stores, or online, for between $20 and $70. You could also build your own, but always be conscious that when paddling with others a bright light can be blinding so it is best to have them behind frosted glass.
MAST has determined that a single light mounted on the back deck does not provide the required 360 degree visibility, so paddlers need to mount a light fore and aft (recommended that you black out the rear facing section of the front light so that you don’t cause night blindness) or if you have a mast step, you could attach a light at the top which has 360 degree visibility.
It is mandatory to carry, but not necessarily attach, a tethering device whenever you are more than 200 metres from shore. A tow rope can be used as a tether, but generally in kayaking terms a tether is used to attach a paddle to the kayak deck. The club does not generally recommend tethering yourself directly to a kayak due to the entanglement risks if capsized and trying to exit the kayak.
The use of a tethering device is ultimately down to personal choice. Many experienced members refuse to use them due to entanglement risks, but others who have capsized and lost contact with their kayak swear by them.
If buying a paddle leash, spend the extra $10 or $20 and get a good quality one. Some of the cheaper $20 leashes have very weak connections and could break when you need them most. Other considerations are how easy it would be to release the paddle from the leash and soft leashes (rather than plastic ones) make a lot less noise when paddling (the plastic one’s can tend to ‘smack’ the deck which can get annoying).
EPIRB or PLB
EPIRB’s and PLB’s are great safety devices, but they don’t tend to be at the top of new kayakers purchasing lists.
Maritime specific EPIRB’s are the ultimate safety tool in an emergency search and rescue situation (if well looked after) and from there you start making trade-offs in terms of size and safety when you step down to smaller EPIRB’s and PLB’s.
However a small PLB carried in your life jacket is better than a you-beaut EPIRB which is floating away in your kayak which you’ve become detached from. There is lots of information in the Cub Journal (see editions 53 and 55) and on the club forums from members who have used various devices and it is worth reading these and talking to members before committing to a purchase.
Compass and GPS
A simple (but high quality) bushwalking compass is all you really need for sea kayaking navigation and they can be picked up for as little as $50 at most bushwalking stores. However using a hand compass on rough seas can be hard. Remember that pump batteries, computers and other electronic devices in your kayak can interfere with a compass.
A kayak deck compass is a great luxury if you can afford the $160 or so that they cost, however ultimately a compass is no use if you don’t know how to use it. The club runs navigation sessions on a regular basis and has several sea kayaking navigation books in our library. These really are worthwhile as is practicing the skills on the water. When you’re lost in fog it is not the time to try and figure out how to take and follow a bearing.
GPS’s are being used more and more commonly in the club and they are great until the battery goes flat or the device sinks into the water below you. A cheap Etrex GPS is all you really need, or if you have a smartphone there are lots of great navigation apps (eg. GaiaGPS) which allow you to download satellite and google imagery onto your iphone.
A whistle, worn on or in pockets of, PFD is one of the essential safety devices all members should carry.
With that said, whistles can be surprisingly hard to hear in a marine environment. If you get the chance try out the whistle on a trip (with the group’s prior permission). You might be surprised.
A single sea kayak generally measures between 5 and 5 1/2 metres long, and weighs around 20 to 30 kg empty. The local Greenlander Double measures 7 metres long, and weighs around 50 kg empty. Kayaks are transported empty.
The boats need as much support as possible when being transported. Carry bars, whether on the roof or trailer, must be solid and secure enough to carry the load. They need to be spaced well apart - at least 1 1/2, preferably 2 metres or more apart - to support the kayaks towards their 1/4 and 3/4 points. They need to have as much surface area as possible supporting the boats at those points - flat bars are preferable to round, and padding is needed. The kayaks should be tied down with either tie down straps, sturdy, flexible cord or webbing tape that you can tie in secure knots. Tensioning knots such as a truckies hitch are recommended - pull very firm but don’t buckle or crunch the boat. Special care is required to ensure that plastic boats do not distort permanently after long periods on roof racks in the sun! Anchoring each end to the front and back of the car is also advisable, just firm but not tight, to allow relative flexing between the boat and the car / trailer.
There is an increasing variety of carrying and fastening systems available commercially.
Be aware that if your kayak projects more than 1.2 metres behind the rearmost most point of your vehicle, then you must attach a red flag to the back of the kayak during the day or a red light at night. This isn’t club policy, it’s the law.
There is also a rear overhang rule, which is a bit more complex, but for most two axle cars, utes and vans, a kayak must not project more than 60% of the wheelbase (distance between the two axles) from the rear most axle. So if your wheelbase is 3 metres. Then your kayak must not project more than 1.8 metres (60% of 3 metres) beyond the rear axle. You may find in practice that this is a very hard law to comply with!
BEWARE! Salt water rusts cars. You will regret ignoring it! Bring fresh water and a towel to rinse your kayak before loading it onto your roof or wash things down at home.
This will be your biggest investment - research it carefully, and don’t rush into it.
There is a variety of plastic, fibreglass and kevlar sea kayaks available commercially, and the club has moulds for several sea kayaks. Each boat is a compromise - if it has good tracking for long distance straight lines, it will not be very manoeuvrable, if it is wide and stable it will not have the acceleration of some boats etc. Big people may not fit into some of the smaller boats, and small people cannot paddle ergonomically in some of the bigger boats. So try out a variety of boats. Once you have made yourself known on a trip or two, some members may be willing to lend their kayak for you to trial. Likewise some retailers can organise an opportunity to trial their kayaks. It helps to paddle one boat in a variety of conditions and learn its behaviours and restrictions, to give a base line to compare other boats with. A fully fitted commercial sea kayak is likely to cost $2,000 to $5,000, and a double starts at around $3,000 commercially. You can build one for around $1,000, and it is a great learning experience! Ask around and team up with others planning to build, so you have the support and experience of the club to help you in the project.
We believe there are some basic requirements for a kayak to be sea worthy, quite apart from the design of the boat.
The kayak must be well joined, have no leaking holes and cracks, and have all bulkheads, hatches and cockpits well sealed.
The kayak must have enough buoyancy at each end to guarantee it will float fairly level on the surface when full of water. Waterproof compartments both fore and aft are desirable for keeping gear dry. Solid bulkheads (or small walls) separate these compartments from the cockpit, the space you sit in. A seaworthy kayak will have bulkheads fitted just behind the seat and just in front of your feet. When empty of gear the compartments should be filled with removable buoyancy such as wine bladders, sealed orange juice bottles, or for temporary measure blow up beach balls etc. Minimising the space that water can occupy makes rescue easier and capsize, leak or hull damage less problematical.
In the event of a capsize in rough conditions, the paddler has to grab the boat immediately, as the wind will blow it away faster than you can swim. It is impossible to get a sure grip on the smooth wet surface of the kayak. A solid cord around the edge of the deck, attached every 60 to 100 cm for the complete length of the boat, is recommended. The deck lines should be strong and secure enough to carry a loaded boat by. We recommend cord of at least 8 mm, preferably 10 mm diameter be used. Grips made of thick plastic for a 2, 3 and 4 person carry of the boat are desirable as they make carrying less painful. Toggle grips are good at the ends, as they do not entangle the fingers when hanging on behind a boat being spun by surf.
Strongly recommended Requirements
The boat is controlled with your hips, knees and legs. A solid footrest enables the paddler to brace themselves firmly in the boat, and gives a solid base to work from with the paddle. The footrest should be stable and independent of steering control movement. Adjustable footrests allow the tightness of fit to be changed for differing paddling and clothing conditions, and to accommodate different paddlers.
This issue is open to debate. The wind and waves may tend to push the boat off course, it needs a strong paddler with good technique to exert their will over that influence at times. Sea kayaks have a variety of design strategies to provide directional stability, and most people find it advisable to use a rudder or adjustable skeg to assist control over boat direction. Steering foot controls need to be robust and simple whatever their configuration. Talk with members and examine the wide variety of steering controls around. If you intend using a sail, then a rudder really helps.
Sooner or later you will get a cockpit full of water. While it can be largely removed in an assisted rescue, it is advisable for each boat to have a pump. There are pros and cons for hand held and built in pumps; a variety of manual and battery powered pumps can be used. Talk with club members and retailers, and examine the options available.
A hands free pumping system is a requirement for Proficient and Advanced club trips.
Consider gear needed on the water such as a jumper, coat, hat, snack, drink etc. - these things should not be rolling around loose in your cockpit, as you will lose them if you capsize. You need some system to stow and secure these necessary items, out of the way but easily reached when needed on the water, but not interfering with paddling or entry/exit (i.e. not attached by lots of bits of string inside the cockpit).
Most modern kayaks now have ‘day hatches’ either just behind or in front of the cockpit, but a net mounted on the foredeck or thigh pouches inside the boat are also suitable for accessible storage.
Consider luggage such as dry clothes, camping and diving gear etc. Small hatch openings may appear safer but make it difficult to pack larger items such as sleeping bag and stove. We commonly use 8 to 12 inch openings for our hatches.
Don’t rely on waterproof compartments staying completely dry. Even within the compartment critical items should be protected from water - various homemade and commercial “dry bags” are used but be aware that some cheaper, lightweight dry-bags may let you down when you need them most. Keep the decks as uncluttered as practicable. It is not advisable to count on carrying significant luggage on the deck - you may lose it, it makes rescues much more difficult, and having weight up high destabilises the boat.
A lot of gear can be home made on a low budget. When taking the ready made option, shop around, talk to staff, ask to look at catalogues - there are constant changes and innovations, not all of which can be kept on the shelf.
The above points are basic essentials in fitting out your sea kayak. Map and compass stowage, towline, spare paddle, sails, fishing setups ... you just have to get started, and take the rest as you feel ready.
The club has one Greenlander kayak (single) available for hire to members for use on club trips. It is equipped with a rudder, and comes with spray deck, paddle, PFD and hand pump. The boat custodian will need to approve your roof racks and tie down system before lending you a boat.
The TSCC forward programme is published every two months and will normally include some training programmes aimed at developing members’ skills. Topics include: introduction to paddling, surfing techniques, rolling techniques, advanced techniques and proficiency training and river paddling.
Under the legislation, lightweight craft means an off-the-beach sailing craft, a canoe, a kayak, a stand-up paddle board or any other craft capable of being navigated that is not also a commercial vessel.
This article was extracted from V1-1-b of the Tasmanian Sea Canoe Club's Policy and Guidelines Manual, May 2016