Toms Tips About Kayakers Who Aren’t Boaters

By Tom Neale, 7/26/2007

1. We travel thousands of miles a year on our 53’ motor sailer and we’ve noticed that kayaks on the waterways are proliferating like an algae bloom in the summer. A serious problem with this proliferation is the number of people using them who don’t have a clue about boating.

2. Typically we’ll be in a narrow channel of a waterway, with current and wind. We’ll encounter a bevy of happy kayakers enjoying the world, spread out over the entire channel, oblivious to the fact that anyone else is there or that larger boats may have issues of maneuverability. The kayaks can travel on the side in shallow water, but they’re in big boat water.

3. Once we were traversing the notorious “Rock Pile” behind Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. There are dangerous rocks within a few inches of the surface on either side. Current is often very swift. The channel is so narrow that a large vessel often simply cannot pass because there isn’t room to safely do so. You can’t “move over.” A single kayaker was blissfully paddling along in the middle of the stream. To go slowly enough to stay behind him I would have lost steerage. And he wouldn’t even look back.

4. Usually people like this simply don’t know. Usually, if they do know, they’ll want to do what’s safe and right.

5. A good thing about kayaks is that there is no motor and the occupant should be able to hear you (unless he’s listening to loud music with noise blocking headphones). We’ve found that usually the best way to deal with them is for one of us to go up on the bow and friendlily yell to them, explaining the situation. If it isn’t safe to get that close, a megaphone helps, and we keep one handy. And don’t forget the horn, if you need it. No they probably won’t have a clue about a one or two whistle pass or 5 shorts, but the message will probably sink through.

6. Because many of these non boater kayakers are so inexperienced, it’s very important to NOT throw them any wake and NOT pass too close.

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