by Bill Mauney

You’ve been planning this trip for months.  You woke up at O’Dark thirty to drive to the coast with several of your paddling buddies.  The kayaks are on the beach and ready to load (See “Coastal Paddling – Loading a Sea Kayak Parts I and II).  As you are getting your gear out of the vehicle and down to the kayak, you suddenly have that heavy sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.  You sheepishly announce to your buddies, “I forgot my spray skirt and my flashlight!”

You begin to beat yourself up for being so stupid.  Your friends aren’t saying anything, but you know what they are thinking.  Without your spray skirt, you run the risk of taking on water paddling in waves and a possible capsize.  You are not only putting yourself in danger if you decide to proceed without it, but you have now become a liability to the group, should conditions get rough.  They are the ones who are going to have to bail you out (literally) if you capsize. The waterproof flashlight will not only be needed in camp tonight, but it is a federal legal requirement as it serves as a navigation light for a sea kayak.

So what do you do?  Do you send your friends off without you?  Do you try to run and buy these two items locally, delaying the launch with the favorable tide and wind up making your landing at night only to set up camp after dark?  Do you go anyway and become a liability?  Do you risk both your personal safety and the safety of the group as they get you out of a jam caused by the missing spray skirt or flashlight?  That trip through the surf zone into the ocean is now too risky.  You can’t participate in the moonlight paddle or get caught out after dark.  What to do?

All of this could have been easily prevented if you had used a checklist when packing your gear for this trip.  For your future trips, whether an afternoon at the local lake or a three day weekend at the coast camping on the barrier islands, please download & use this kayaker’s checklist to make sure you show up at the beach with everything you need.  You will be happy if you do and so will your paddling companions.

Happy Paddling

Read More in our Coastal Paddling Series

Editor’s Note: Checkout the Backpacker’s Checklist and Trusty’s Traveler Checklist