Thursday, May 14, 2009

List #2 - 10 Things I Won't Leave My Urban Dock Without Having In My Sea Kayak,

Even Though the Coast Guard Doesn't Say I Have To Have Them!

Part 2 of my participation in Tillerman's Group Writing Project, "Lists".

Actually this was the list I'd first set out to do on Tuesday night, but then I decided that maybe before I talked about the things I always have even though they aren't required, it would make sense to talk about the things that ARE required, particularly since there just aren't that many of those.

Tonight it's on to 10 of the non-required things that I always always always have along.

Really, they all just make sense & almost all of them are going to be items that most conscientious kayakers (maybe even conscientious boaters in general) carry, so there won't be a lot of explanation (sorry, Tillerman, this isn't going to be nearly as interesting as you might have thought it was).

You'll notice a little overlap with Tuesdays post, because some of these items are items that aren't required ARE recommended on your VSC. Actually, when I first mentioned this idea to Tillerman, the list name was "Ten Things I Won't Leave My Urban Dock Without, Even Though The Coast Guard Doesn't Care" - but looking over the Vessel Safety Check checklist, I realized that that wasn't quite the case. I think there's a difference between "not caring" and "not requiring". As I mentioned on Tuesday, the Coast Guard isn't out there to play nanny - they require the most key items; everything else, they leave to your discretion. Personally, I appreciate that.

BTW, this isn't everything I always carry - just the first 10 that spring to mind.

So without further ado,
here's list number two!
Whoop toodle de do!

1. A VHF. First & foremost, it's a lifeline. I hope to god I never have to use in to call for help - kayakers are a self-reliant lot & for one of us to hit that red key, things would have to be pretty awful - but if I do, I have it. Less dramatically, but still very nice - in more trafficked areas, it saves you the stress of guessing who's going where when. Recommended, not required, but it's always charged & with me.

2. Extra lights, on deck & lit before twilight. CG regs are one white light, ready to show in time to avert a collision. If you were trying to do that on the NYC waterways, you'd give yourself an ulcer keeping an eye on all the boats around you & trying to figure out when it was time to show the light (not to mention that to show the light, you have to stop paddling). I carry a split red-green light for my bow (that's nice where there are lots of headlights & streetlights & stuff, people see that & they know you are a boat, not a reflection), a headlamp that I wear facing backwards, and a 360-degree white stern light that sticks on my back deck with a suction cup. Might be overkill some places, in NYC it just makes sense to totally over-light.

3. A tow rope. Not even mentioned for the VSC but it's a nice long piece of strong line (mine's Spectra, oooh lar lar) neatly stored close at hand & what boater in the world doesn't understand how handy that can be? Sometimes I even tow things with it.

4. A spare paddle. Paddles break, and although you could theoretically get yourself home paddling canoe-style, it's a heck of a lot easier to just pull out the extra paddle.

5. A space blanket. It lives in the first-aid kit bag (actually another recommended, not required item I always have along). In ten years I've only broken mine out once but that one time - boy, was I happy to have it! I usually have some extra outer layers along - but that day, it was one of those gruesome, humid NYC scorchers, the paddling plan wasn't particularly ambitious & a windbreaker just slipped my mind. We ended going ashore on Canarsie Pol to wait out a thunderstorm we'd been silly enough to get caught while chasing fish. One of us had a jacket which he put on. The other two of us got drenched. Felt fabulous at first but then we started to actually get chilly, at which point it hit me that of course I had my space blanket, which turned out to be big enough to share. Made the wait much less miserable & I was very glad I had it.

6. A compass. I have one that's supposed to mount on the deck that I've never gotten around to mounting. In the multi-year interim, I have a little Silva orienteering compass that lives in my PFD. The NYC area isn't as notorious for fog as, say, Maine, but every once in a while you can get a proper pea-souper.

7. Food & drink. At the very least, no matter how short the paddle, there's always at least an energy bar in my PFD. Smart motorboaters always make sure they have more fuel than they need to get where they're going, right? Food is kayak fuel. And cookies are good for morale. On the drink side - as much water as I think I'll need & then an extra bottle or two so I won't run out & have some to share if somebody else doesn't. I'm not saying I'm always smart enough to remember to drink enough of it - but I don't leave the dock without it. In the winter I add at least one thermos of something hot & sweet (the sugar's good for energy); preferably hot cider, the unfiltered kind, with a cinnamon stick in it. If I forgot to buy cider, then it's hot tea with honey, or cocoa (none of yer watery Swiss Miss crap, either, I make my cocoa with milk and Ghirardelli Chocolate Hazelnut Cocoa). Again, I try to bring enough to share - in this case, it's not just about morale - hot sweet drinks help the body handle cold.

8. A small repair kit. OK, for shorter paddles sometimes that consists of duct tape & a knife. But with that & a couple other items that I usually have, if I happened to hole my boat on a submerged piling or something, I'd be able to patch things up enough to get myself back to the club.

9. A pump. I may not have it out on deck if I'm paddling with a group of friends, but it's always in one of the hatches.

10. Last but not least - and maybe the most specifically urban of all the non-CG-required things I carry - money. Actually, it's my whole purse now that I've gone to Sebago, where there are a lot more people coming & going, gates & doors left open - I've never had anything stolen at Sebago, knock wood, but my purse is only one non-paddling item I take to the club that would both really tempt a person to swipe it & it would wreck a nice day if they did. So I just take the whole thing with me. It's also actually quite a good way to keep my keys close at hand & easy to find on land (you need them for the padlocks on the clubhouse & the containers) but securely stashed, zipped in & very unlikely to go in the water when I move to the dock. In Manhattan, the situation was a little more secure & the locks were combination, so the main thing was cash. I always carried a twenty in a lifejacket pocket & I would joke about it being my urban emergency kit. It wasn't really a joke, though, the idea was that if I got in real trouble, I'd take out somewhere & use the cash to get home. I only ended up having to do that once, with a friend on a trip that went quite badly wrong. Complicated story, Murphy's law was in full & frightening effect that day. I have never in all my life been quite so happy to throw in the towel as I was that day. What a relief it was to get my totally wiped-out friend/client off the water at the South Street Seaport. We got permission to leave the boats until we could retrieve them, we packed up our stuff, grabbed our paddles, I pulled out the "urban emergency kit" and pretty soon we were back at Manhattan Kayak. Good end to a bad day.

And that's it for the list, too! There's definitely more stuff I carry - but it's past my bedtime & I actually think that this list of 10 does cover the stuff I really do always have along, even on the shortest paddle.

At least in my sea kayak.

Due to the complete absence of hatches, surfski's a different matter entirely!

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