Really the biggest questions to answer are
- what happens after I fall out of the boat (are you attached to it with a leash? can you re-board it? can you stay upright in the conditions that made you fall ut in the first place?)
- how long can I survive in the water, and how long until your fingers or limbs stop working (often long before actual death)
- how do I signal for help
I paddle out of oxnard area so am in your general area. I surfski (a long skinny SOT kayak) and paddle in everything from flat water to 9’ monsters and 25kt squalls. I almost exclusively paddle alone.
For safety, I have (toe to head) Thin neoprene shoes (since the footwell is always wet and exposed), calf leash, a 3/2 wetsuit, PFD, Blaze orange long sleeve shirt, paddle leash, reflective tape all over my paddles and boat, my phone in waterproof case, a whistle, mirror, 2 small flashlights, sunglasses, and a full brim hat.
On bigger days I also have my Zoleo PLB with me.
I usually paddle after work so a 3/2 wetsuit is actually what I need to stay warm in the 60-70* weather common around here. Often its cloudy in the evenings too.
How much safety gear you have is entirely dependent on your tolerance for risk. Deaths usually happen from ignorance or a chain of failures. In this case, the chain of failures is more likely, so how far down the alphabet do you want to have plans?
- (nothing is wrong) Remount and continue
- (something prevents me from remounting) im attached to the boat (providing good visibility) and wait for rescue (a coast guard chopper has shined my boat at night and I know they could see me from a loooong ways away with the reflective film which helps too because they were a long ways off and pointed the spot light at me precisely and I wasnt in their path)
- (leash breaks) I swim to shore without issue because I have a PFD and wetsuit that will keep me alive for a day or more. I only paddle with winds blowing onshore as well (so I might even get my boat back)
- (Cant swim to shore), signal passing boats with whistle, mirror, or lights
- (cant swim to shore and conditions are small to moderate) call harbor patrol from my phone and request a non emergency rescue
- (cant swim to shore in big conditions) call harbor patrol if possible, or use PLB to initiate emergency rescue.
So you can see I have up to “Plan E” fairly well established. My wetsuit and PFD means time in the water/hypothermia is not a concern. I could float overnight and probably survive.
If you cant self recover, dont paddle outside the bay (yes, you must prove this to yourself at least once every few times you paddle). If you cant signal for rescue, you’re screwed. If you cant survive until someone finds you, you’re screwed. Focus on those things and fill out the alphabet of backup plans until you or your family feels good about your chances of survival when things go wrong in succession.
As in, so you’re 2 miles off shore and a wind suddenly comes up. You werent planning on that so you dont have a wetsuit or leash. you’re separated from your boat. your phone was in the hatch in your boat. so now you have a PFD and what else…? always try to have a backup plan to the backup plan to the backup plan and so on.
As the army says, Two is One. One is None. how many backup plans do you have?