VHF incident

Discussion in 'Paddling Safety' started by ken_vandeburgt, Sep 17, 2011.

  1. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

    Nov 13, 2007
    I recently was out paddling in Kyuquot area.

    When I turned on my new lithium battery powered radio to get the weather information it was found that the battery was dead. Oops. Not a mission critical problem though, particularly as I was paddling with someone whose radio was operable.

    I've never had a reason to communicate with my VHF radio prior to this trip. We accidently separated after we made the long crossing to the Bunsbys. I went inside of the islands to where the landing was for the planned campsite thinking my paddle partner knew that this was our destination. Due to miscommunication, She didn't follow me in and kept paddling outside the archipelgo. Apparently, not everyone reads charts well, particularly in areas where there are many islands (I'll suggest this is a common problem).

    So now we had to figure out how to get back together. I whacked my forehead while saying words not repeatable here, particularly when I thought how easy it would be if my radio was working. I consoled myself by saying we didn't have a comms plan anyway.

    So lessons learned are: to check the radio before you leave home; and, have a comms plan such as be on the radio 5 minutes to till 5 minutes after the hour on channel 'x'. A radio check where you actually talk to each other on the radio might be a good idea too. Bringing extra batteries should not be necessary but would have been a good idea in this instance.

    It took about an hour of frantic paddling amongst the islands to find my paddling partner. Fortunately she had the sense to pull up on an island and stay there. I barely saw her red paddle waving in the distance and finally figured out that the screeching bird was actually her blowing a whistle.
  2. camshaft

    camshaft Paddler

    Jun 11, 2010
    Excellent reminder Ken on a number of points being navigation and reading charts. As well understanding how to contact each other if you become seporated. Since I use a GPS its pretty simple to set a waypoint and navigate to it. But I have paddled with some people that even with a GPS had some major navigational issues. Which was a real eye opener to never assume that someone with gps, charts and compass knows where they are going.

    I found my icom VHF takes almost 1 full day to charge and lasted like 2 plus weeks on standby. Very impressed

    Thanks again for the reminder Ken

  3. AM

    AM Paddler

    Jan 30, 2006
    Ken, I would add one more thing to your sensible recommendations. It's a good idea to do an on-water radio check immediately after launching, especially on the first day, so that the group can ensure that everyone's radio is transmitting and receiving. That is also an opportunity for everyone to warm up their "radio" voice, get used to call signs, and figure out which radios are strongest.

    Something I learned about the Bunsbies this summer: transmitting at 5 watts from the top of a small bluff in direct line of sight to Spring Island, the folks at the WestCoast Expeditions camp had trouble hearing me, no matter which of three radios I used. They later told me that it can be hard to get messages out from the Bunsbies.

  4. VanIslePaddler

    VanIslePaddler Paddler

    Nov 11, 2009
    Tuff City
    Very good points Ken.

    VHF radios are a blessing!

    - Spare batteries... a must... a spare litium is good, but expensive. I suggest carrying a litium battery, with a AA or AAA battery case back-up. Carry atleast 2 sets of spare AA or AAA's.

    - Sceduled check-in times!

    - Calling / standby channel - set prior to departure

    I witnessed an incident in Quatsino, where three paddlers were sperated (solo paddler left the couple behind). Due to wind they landed on seperate beaches (all were safe). The Solo paddler started calling for them franticalkly on ch 16... got picked up by CG, and soon a Cormorant 442 squadron Helicopter, CG zodiac, and CG cutter were dispatched.... all were safe, but a couple factors could have prevented this:

    1 - ALWAYS paddle as a group... if you sign on to paddle somewhere with others (paid or as friends) stick together
    2 - have a pre-determined radio channel and time
  5. SheilaP

    SheilaP Paddler

    Jun 6, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Great reminder VanIslePaddler! :mrgreen: