To anyone who has been hearing the local news, it's the kind of story our friends and family have been dreading. Two kayaks have been found off Sooke, near Victoria, yesterday and the day before, say the news reports. This morning, September 29, the local CBC radio station reported that two young men who were working in the area are now missing. It looks like they might have set out into less than ideal weather conditions.
No, none of us at Kayak Yak know the missing men. But that doesn't make the story any better.
When we comment here on our blog about boating safety, or getting a new PFD like John did on the weekend, or practising wet exits and re-entry, it's not just a bunch of hot air. This is the kind of stuff that can save your life -- or lose it.
Sooke basin is a terrific place to paddle. We've been there many times, mostly on calm days. Sometimes we challenged ourselves with steady wind and waves, or consistent currents. The bay seems so sheltered until the wind changes direction. Once we launch, it's easy to get away from the sound and sight of the town and of the houses scattered along some of the shore. And a couple of times, we've faced a few challenges that seemed perfectly fine ten seconds earlier. So far we've all come home, and we've even brought our boats home.
Even in familiar places, it's possible for a person in a kayak or other small boat to have unexpected problems. I hope that anyone reading our blog takes safety seriously -- personal safety and group safety! Accidents happen to everyone. Sometimes being prepared helps.
Last weekend I came to shore on Cadboro Bay's Gyro Park beach just as a young man was launching. We said hi to each other, and he glanced at my kayak's deck.
"Too much stuff," he said.
Well, I did have a spare paddle, water pump, and throw bag of rope on the front deck, and a paddle float on the back. (Mike Jackson stores all that gear inside his cockpit, because he wants a clear deck so he can roll. I can't roll.) I shrugged and said, "Safety gear."
He shook his head. "Too much."
Did I take him more seriously because he was in a well-worn kayak, a muscular First Nations man with a fishing line looped on his deck? Did I take him less seriously because he wasn't wearing a PFD or a kayak skirt?
I thought about him when hearing the news reports of the missing kayakers off Sooke. A PFD won't always save your life... it might keep one from drowning long enough to die of cold, and in these cold waters that can take about half an hour. Then it makes you easier to find.
All the safety gear we carry (and it's required by law here in Canada) is no guarantee of safety. It's just tools that might be useful. We have put them to use, too.
It's hard waiting to hear the news reports from Sooke.
Be careful out there.