Over the course of the year I’m sure many of you will want to venture onto the sea Whilst the sea is a fun place to paddle, even in the sheltered coastal areas around Clacton, things can quickly get out of hand. Because you can move so much faster in a kayak than when simply swimming you can easily find yourself in a situation that is beyond your capability to handle. By being aware of a few simple rules and observing the environment, things will be a lot safer.
Never paddle with less than three in the group. This means that in the event of a problem occurring, that someone can go for help whilst there is someone around to stay with the person in difficulty.
Be aware the strength and direction of the wind. Even light offshore breezes can create conditions, that while things seem perfectly OK on the beach, a few metres offshore things may be very different. The problem will then be magnified as you can be then be blown further out to sea, as many people find out to their cost when using inflatables.
Tides run along the beach and not simply in and out. With an incoming tide the direction is from Harwich to Brightlingsea, the opposite being the case for outgoing tides. These flows also vary according to the time of month (spring and neap tides) and often run at 2 – 3 miles per hour. Your top speed may not be much more than this, making for slow progress if you find yourself having to paddle against the flow, maybe on the return trip when you may already be tired.
Always make sure that you can get to land. Areas of the beach are often covered and sea defences and make it extremely hazardous to get ashore. This can often be the case, for example between Clacton pier and Holland on Sea. If you paddle in an estuary, as at Walton Backwaters and Brightlingsea, you may not be able to land much after high water due to large the expanses of mud that uncover, also there can be fairly strong tidal flows in these areas.
It is also essential that you let someone know your intended route and estimated time of arrival. This means that the alarm can be raised in good time if things do go wrong. The Coastguard will usually help with this, but be sure that whomever you use that you tell them when you are back otherwise an unnecessary rescue may be launched.
Sea conditions can change rapidly, even in the Summer, so take notice of the weather forecast.
Even then things can depend on local conditions, thunderstorms are notoriously unpredictable, as is fog; the implications are obvious.
Living where we do the sea is probably our prime paddling area and should be enjoyed, but as I’m sure you’ve all heard many times, it should never be taken for granted. By using a little common sense and by being aware of what is going on around you it can provide great enjoyment.