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Kayak Fishing Safety - A tale of woe....

Discussion in 'Sea Fishing Forum - Shore, Boat & Kayak Fishing' started by V8_Rob, Nov 22, 2011.

  1. V8_Rob

    V8_Rob New Member

    I'd been out fishing at the Bristol Channel for about three hours, anchored up off a reef. The wind freshened up into a easterly with a steady swell rolling down the Channel, nothing of interest. I'd noticed a couple of rogue waves come down from the north, hitting the kayak side on and filling a footwell. Again, nothing of interest nor concern.

    During slack water I was a bit bored and started nosing around. I went to open the front hatch and to my horror noticed a 2" split along a seam on the inside thigh of my drysuit. On close inspection it was running along a line where there was a taped seam underneath. It was a straight tear, slightly frayed, so not a cut. It almost looked like a fatigue crack. I inspect my suit every other trip so it really took me by surprise. I actually took a photo which is further down this post..

    So, I'd already been out three hours, the kayak was stable in the tide, lying with the swell, things couldn't have been better. I decided to fish another hour or so as planned then head back in. I was taking a few photos and leaned slight to the left with the camera down the side of the kayak. Whilst taking a few photos the whole kayak tipped up, I was already slightly to one side and the sudden change of angle was enough to put me off balance. Before I could react it continued to roll and I capsized... no doubt one of those rogue waves from the north. No biggie, it happens to us all eventually and we prepare for this. My first capsize in over 200 trips, I couldn't complain!.

    The kayak had flipped but it was quickly turned right side up at the second attempt. Though with the kayak anchored and the tide beginning to ebb, and with a running sea, I was getting pushed down the kayak as I tried to re-enter. No big deal, I went around the kayak and disconnected the anchor and drifted. That changed everything and I went to re-enter. I was lying over the kayak and was just about to turn into the seat when a swell hit the kayak and I slid off. Oh well, so I went to get back on again though I failed to get quite as far. Each attempt saw me struggle that little bit more. Odd, I wasn't tired.... that's when I remembered the rip in my dry suit, my suit was full from the waist down.

    I tried a few more times though I was just wasting energy and flipped the kayak a couple of times. There was a charter boat a mile west of me so I called him up on the radio, no response. I was about 500m offshore, I briefly considered kicking for the shore, but I'm also aware that the tide runs away from the shore on the ebb heading directly to a headland 2-3 miles away. By this time I'd been in the water around 15 minutes and was steadily drifting east. Water temp was 12 degrees centigrade.

    Leaving the kayak would have been stupid , it's a huge liferaft after all, so I decided to give the coastguard a shout. We chatted and I explained my position, gave him my GPS co-ords and waited. I watched a coastguard wagon come along the clifftop and he was struggling to see me, so I directed him verbally to my area, switching on the nav light helped no end ;D

    The coastguard called up and told me it'd be 15 mins til the lifeboat was on scene, no biggie, I was very warm. They turned up and at first suggested they'd help me back onto the kayak, though with a full drysuit it wasn't happening. With two guys helping, and me pulling, I was hauled aboard the llifeboat. Standing up was amusing, my legs were like the Michelin man with water gushing out of the tear. Slightly worrying was the presence of three small pinholes in the other leg with small jets of water squirting out. The later a put down to being pricked with hooks over the past 4 years (that turned out no to be the case - more later).

    They were extremely impressed with the array of safety gear and that all precautions had been taken. I had been asked to let of smoke/flare if they'd asked. Though with a visual from the shore and my GPS position they came straight to me without any drama.

    With a drysuit full of water making a successful re-entry would have been quite a feat for anybody, I certainly found it impossible once my suit had filled up. After 35 minutes in the water I was still wonderfully warm and could have stayed in there for rather a long time if required. I still had a mobile phone in a drybox which I could have used if a radio call had been unsuccessful.

    As much as we prepare for the worst day, what with capsize drills and carrying an assortment of safety gear, we cannot prepare for every eventuality. Ultimately we carry a radio to make that call when all else fails. Despite my best preparations, I was forced into making that call today.

    Yes, I could have deserted the kayak, made for shore and perhaps saved the call. Though I could also have got into difficulties and finding me would have been made much more difficult. Sure, it's a little embarrassing, though I'm happy that I was suitably prepared, on the day I was just plain unlucky. Spotting the rip in my drysuit was one nasty surprise, falling off on that very same trip (after 200+ dry trips) was another!

    Many thanks to the RNLI and the Coastguard who have been suitably thanked and rewarded by myself.

    Fishing reports will be posted later ;D

    Oh, and what did a lose?. A bottle of coke (well 1/2 a bottle) and one glove.

    Here's a follow up to this initial report:

    As I'd mentioned earlier I noticed the tear in my dry suit well into the trip, I was that amazed I took a photo!


    On closer inspection with the suit washed and dried this is what I saw. I've lifted the torn portion so it's more visible.


    The suit material had weakened along the taped seam, probably by chafing whilst walking or general movement on the kayak. As it had flexed along the length of the seam it had weakened through fatigue, some areas saw signs of external wear.

    Looking at the same area on the opposite leg exactly the same problem was present. It's not something you'd notice because as the suit has aged the taped seams have become more visible. Hence an area of wear along a line is in fact very difficult to spot.


    The other leg had already holed in the same area, the hole was less than 1mm, though the fabric was weakened along the line close to it. I've macro'd in close, unless your inches from the damage you'd never notice it.

    I went over the suit with a VERY close eye and more areas of damage became apparent. A very small hole was present along an area of slight wear, the wear line was an inch at most.


    Again on the inside of the leg, a fussy join exists and the material is slightly rucked my the stitching. The whole length of this is around 1cm. A small hole around 1mm had formed where the material was raised by some stitching and had worn through.


    The same area on the opposite leg was showing similar wear though had not worn through.


    One final hole was found in the crotch area, again a very small length of wear, under an inch, though a tiny hole had formed.


    So there were four pinholes in my suit due to wear. They were all in areas you'd never notice and probably not really think to look. The worst area of wear had of course ripped. I'd not noticed it the previous 2 days, and with is close proximity to the centre hatch it was something that was easily spotted, so it's fair to assume the suit ripped on the day I noticed it.

    So, there I was sitting comfy in a steady rolling swell getting soaked in the rain. The camera is low here though the swell was at most 3'


    Looking at the camera memory card I'd taken several photos in the minute before I was tipped over. I was holding the camera when I capsized and apprently hit the shutter release a split second bedore I actually went under!. The kayak is at a 90 degree angle here, the rod holder is almost horizontal.


    Never let a bad situation stop you taking an interesting photo ;D

    I capsized at 1428, the time was recorded on the photo. According the GPS I unclipped the anchor at 1430 and began to drift at an average on 1.1mph, bearing 285 degrees.

    The RNLI picked me out at 1458 after a drift of just over 0.5 miles, they then headed for the Blue Anchor slipway. I'd been in the water 30 mins, not the 35 mins I'd thought. The black is my track out, the blue my drift post capsize and the yellow is the RNLI track to the slipway.


    I was warm throughout, surprisingly warm and could have stayed in the water for a long time. Despite the damage to my suit my multiple layers of thermal clothing served me well. They did waterlog heavily and weighed a LOT once removed. However, the plan is not to get them wet in the first place ::).

    The suit was 4 years old and had covered 200+ trips on the water. On inspection the suit was good condition and well maintained with new seals (talc'd after each trip), lube'd zippers, etc. However, if you looked VERY closely in areas that don't jump out, i.e high up on the inner thighs, crotch, etc, damaged had occurred, sufficient enough the cause the fabric to rip with little effort. You could lay that suit on the floor and check out the front, flip it, and check out the back, no damage whatsover is visible. Yet it is worn and damaged, though it takes a VERY close and purposeful look to spot it.

    So the lesson is don't just give your suit a cursory glance over post every trip, get up close and personal and give your suit a VERY close check-up, you may get a nasty shock!

    Here's a link the the RNLI report, not totally correct, though close enough.
  2. andym

    andym Rockling

    Re: A tale of woe....

    Thanks for sharing that Rob Glad things turned out OK, as you say you can practice re entry and have all the kit and sometimes still get caught out but the RNLI would have been only too pleased to help out someone who had gone to sea prepared instead of some of the rescue cases we hear about that have no preparation or real safety gear
  3. stickman

    stickman There's a difference between fishing and catching!

    Re: A tale of woe....

    What an interesting report - and I nearly didn't bother reading it :clown:

    You seemed to stay very calm throughout the whole episode Scrumpy - I'd have been terrified, but then I'm no kayaker!

    Will you get the suit repaired? I had my breathable waders done a few months back by Dave Gordon but he does dry suits as well - you probably know of him already but if not, his website is http://sites.google.com/site/wadersrepairs/
  4. V8_Rob

    V8_Rob New Member

    Re: A tale of woe....

    Nah, I'll scrap it and buy a new one. I've had over 4 years and over trips out of it, I don't think i can complain too much :tease:
  5. Mark

    Mark Blenny

    Re: A tale of woe....

    Scrumpy, Even though i'm not a kayaker thanks for taking the time and effort to write such an informative post. I'm sure the kayaking lads will all benefit from this. Glad to see you had all the safety gear and also the fact that you did'nt panic.

    Probably serve's as a lesson to all of us wether boat,kayak or shore fisherman to check all our gear more thoroughly.


  6. shammy67

    shammy67 only dead fish go with the flow

    Re: A tale of woe....

    a very thorough,informing and interesting read.just glad all turned out ok.just goes to show that something so inconspicuous could have disasterous consequences.
  7. mattylamb

    mattylamb Rockling

    Re: A tale of woe....

    Id just like to echo what others have said. thanks for coming on and telling us the story. It looks like you did everything right in the situation and you didnt panic. I will certainly be checking my drysuit thoroughly!
  8. Sambo

    Sambo To the MAX!

    Re: A tale of woe....

    :laugh: :laugh:

    Thanks for sharing your experience Rob, just shows how things can still turn bad no matter how well you prepare. However if you hadn't been prepared and kept calm I have no doubt it would of ended much worse. I know from your previous reports that you don't cut corners on safety and preparation..

    Glad you came out of it ok though, I sure the next report will be of another 20lb Cod :wink: :yes:
  9. newdave

    newdave Guest

    Re: A tale of woe....

    Thanks for posting a great report Rob, its amazing how most inciidents are a combination of factors. just glad you didn't try the swim for shore option. I am sure the RNLI were pleased with the calm way you handled the incident.
  10. harrythecod

    harrythecod Rockling

    All though not a kayak angler myself i like to read the reports,
    and this one was a very good read, :yes:

    i hope any less expeienced kayak anglers readt it and heed what is stated ,
    well done to you for bring this interesting story of your miss hap to the attention of evry one :cool:
  11. mike_t

    mike_t Jackson Kayak Team Member

    Interesting read, one thing that worries me, I have checked my suit the best I can before each trip. I posted recently about care for suits, checked mine in the tub for leaks.

    Not sure if it would work but I carry a couple of short straps, so if I ripped my suit i wrap them round to try and isolate that area just incase something happens like it did yourself.
  12. Cartman74

    Cartman74 Guest

    Good of you to share that, just goes to show that no matter how careful we are things can happen , like rogue swells.

    All the best

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