THERE’S A PLACE FOR ALL YOUR ESSENTIALS
1 RESCUE KNIFE: Fitted to my left shoulder, in reach of either hand, this easy-to-remove, yet secure knife, is short, blunt-tipped, serrated and has a sharpened rope-cutting hook.
The ridged handle aids a firm grip, and a hole allows an additional lanyard to be fitted for added security if required. Having fishing lines, anchor systems, paddle and rod leashed in abundance, this is a vitally important piece of equipment to carry.
The blunt tip lessons the risk of accidentally cutting myself, of course, and with the hook I can pull down on to line, as well as using the standard cutting edge. 2 VHF RADIO: A vital tool for all sea users, this fits securely into the large righthand pocket of my PFD, with the aerial tucked away in a clip just above. While it is there as my first response to an emergency rescue scenario, it is also useful for receiving weather forecasts and security warnings, and is in constant use for general on-the-water radio traffic, both for calling and receiving. Channel 16, the emergency and calling channel, is constantly monitored, with Channel 8 on dual watch in my own waters as the preferred ship-to-ship working channel for the numerous small commercial, charter and leisure boats. Channels 12 and 14 are the two local harbour calling channels, while in other locations alternates are used; it is always best to check what is in use in the area you planning to visit. Legally, you are required to hold an Ofcom licence and an RYA Short Range Certificate to operate one without supervision. Although many chose not to do the course, it is as valuable as regular radio use to give the confidence to use it and make calling on it second nature, essential in an emergency. 3 PERSONAL LOCATOR BEACON: I have been carrying a McMurdo Fastfind 210 GPS PLB for the last five years and can’t imagine going out solo or in poor conditions without it. This is fitted on to my right chest in a neoprene flotation pocket, tucked away in
a nylon pouch and leashed with a stainless carabiner for easy removal and security while in my hand. This is my last-call safety device.
This GPS Personal Locator Beacon, registered with Falmouth Coastguard to myself, is waterproof to 10 metres, lightweight, pocket sized, easily held and designed to be carried; it never leaves my PFD.
Transmitting a unique identification signal on 406Mhz, via the international Search and Rescue system, activation is then passed to regional SAR authorities, who can then home in via the additional 121.5 Mhz beacon and flashing LED SOS light.
With a six-year battery life and 24-hour continuous operation on activation, it is a safe and effective replacement for distress flares that should see me pulled out of the water with the minimum trouble in dire circumstances.
4 LINE CUTTER: Fitted securely on to my right shoulder, this rescue hook has a large, easy-to-grab (and hold on to) handle, and can be reached by either hand. Securely attached with cable ties and with limited alternative use, it remains always available, and can be used to pull down on to any stray lines I might find myself caught up in.
5 STROBE AND WHISTLE: The small, simple and unobtrusive waterproof strobe, fitted to my right shoulder, provides a visible source in low-light conditions in case of search and rescue, flashing brightly for an extended period. It weighs about as much as the whistle I also carry, both being excellent for pinpointing my position.
6 HELIOGRAPH: This is an excellent piece of equipment to carry in a pocket. Visible for miles when directed towards a boat, helicopter or land and reflecting sunlight, it was recommended to me by a Search and Rescue helicopter crewman I got chatting to at a show. Weighing next to nothing, it takes up little space, does not rely on batteries, and is easy to use.
7 SCISSORS: Kept in a pocket, these small, general-purpose scissors can cut braided fishing line and cable ties easily without the risks associated with knives, and are used mostly on the kayak rather than in an emergency situation when in the water. 8 CABLE TIES: A few of these are also carried, predominantly for use with my anchoring system as breakout attachment points, as well as numerous other uses for onthe-water repair or security.
9 PHYSICAL MODIFICATIONS: This only applies to personal customisation for fitting accessories. The folded-over strap ends are great for security, but if I can’t pull through, I can’t thread on. I cut and then tape or re-stitch once accessories are added.
Knife, cutter and pouch attachment points always seem to go the wrong way, so extra straps often need to be added.
Clips are attached to D-rings as leashing points, so it’s only a case of pulling tight.