Here are a few (but not all) of the simple precautions that may prevent a mishap when kayaking the seacoast.
Respect the water
Never underestimate the power of water. You are not a fish. Big waves, strong currents, and freezing water can sap any kayaker's strength in a hurry.
Know the weather forecast
Any wind stronger than 12 miles per hour should be a concern for beginners. Watch the local news before taking off, and bring a weather radio out with you.
Tell someone what you're doing
Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. In the event of an emergency, this can save valuable time trying to locate you.
Inspect your kayaking gear before heading out
Repair or replace worn life jackets, kayak paddles, and accessories. Sure, $70 may seem like a lot of money to spend on a life jacket, but the average cost of a search-and-rescue for someone not wearing one is $45,000!
Take kayak lessons
Before heading out by yourself or with other novices, take a lesson from a reputable guide or instructor. And be sure that they are certified. The EMS Kayak School (www.kayak-ems.com) offers paddling lessons for all ability levels.
Practice rescue skills
Crawling back into a boat after capsizing is one thing in calm water. Doing it in rough seas is something else entirely. Practice your self-rescue skills until they become second nature.
Wear a USCG-approved life jacket
A life jacket (PFD) is your first and most important line of defense in the event of an unexpected swim. Without a one, you only have a 50% chance of swimming 50 yards in 50-degree water.
Carry a whistle
In the event of an emergency, the sound of a whistle will carry farther than your voice. Many whistles will not function when they are wet, so make sure that yours is approved for water use.
Float your boat
Bow and stern bulkheads create air-filled compartments that keep your kayak afloat. If your kayak is lacking one or both of those bulkheads, or if it does not have built-in foam flotation, you should add a bow and/or stern float bag. These can be found at a good kayak outfitter.
Wear appropriate kayaking clothing
Consider this factoid: Water removes heat from your body 24 times faster than air. Follow this rule of thumb: Add the air and water temperatures together. If they are below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to wear a wetsuit or drysuit. If conditions are warmer, be sure to opt for fast-drying synthetics over cotton. Regardless, keep an extra fleece jacket, a hat, and socks within reach in a waterproof bag.