Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Truth about Dry Bags

There is a wide variety of dry bags, sacks & cases - used to protect all sorts of gear. Come along to learn more about dry bags and packing your kayak:

Show & Tell

on Sunday March 1st 

at The Kayak Shop, 37 Jetty Road Sandringham

Contact us at info@eastcoastkayaking.com if you would like to attend

SealLine Baja™ Dry Bag “hmmm...Semi Dry…Bag”
These are extremely durable bags, lasting in a commercial setting 10+ years. I am still using a 5L and 20L  dry bag I was given on my 15th birthday! In my sea kayaking kit I commonly use 2x 5L dry bags, 1x 10L and 1x20L bags.
As with the lightweight dry bags, this much heavier weight bag relies on folding over the opening and clipping it closed so it is not a perfect seal.

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack “hmmm...Semi Dry…Bag”
These dry bags are of a lighter weight fabric so they weigh less but are not as durable as the Baja bags. In a commercial setting (ie. frequent use) they last 2 years.
Lightweight dry sacks are available in a range of sizes: 1, 2, 4, 8, 13 and 20 litre. I commonly use an 8L for my Thermarest ProLite Plus sleeping mat.They are useful for a range of soft items such as clothes and food - nothing with sharp edges to poke through the bag.
When sealing them up, squeeze as much air out as possible and fold the top over at least three times before clipping the buckle. The watertightness of these bags is not perfect as they rely on merely being folded  and clipped - there is no watertight seal so if the bag is likely to be immersed (in a canoe, open kayak or stowed in cockpit) you should use additional waterproofing methods such as lining with a tied-off heavy duty garbage bag.

To prolong the life of your lightweight dry bags ensure that your fore and aft compartments are clean of sand and there are no exposed sharp points (such as the deck fittings screws) to tear or abrade the bags.

Sea to Summit Compression Dry Sack “I am Very impressed…Can’t get enough of them” I have not yet had a wet sleeping bag.
I can’t get enough of these - I use them for sleeping bags, puffy jackets,  clothing, wet weather clothing,  fly sheets and tents. They have never leaked!  Even in wet plastic sea kayaks! In extremely wet kayaks/canoes or an environment such as the Alaskan rainforest, I do however use a heavy-duty trash bag to make sure they are completely 100% waterproof.

Sea to Summit Stuff Sack “A Great way to make a Dry Bag
Stuff sacks close with a drawstring so they are not actually a dry bag in themselves. They can, however, be converted to a dry bag using a heavy duty garbage bag - squeeze the air out, then twirl and knot the end of the garbage bag for a firm seal.

Our Youtube shows how this is done: How to Make a DRY Bag - Sea to Summit Stuff Sack

Aquapacs “Use you mobile/cell phone anytime, anywhere...Provided there is reception!”
These small bags are best suited to electronics that you might want to access on the water: phones, VHF radios and GPS units as they have a clear plastic window and allow use of a touchscreen through the plastic. They come in a variety of sizes - 108 (mini electronics / earlier iPhones), 348 (iPhone 5 & 6) and the new 358 (iPhone 6+ & larger phones) expected in March.
The bag works on a clamp system and is rated at IPX8 - submersible to 5 metres. It comes with a lanyard - as with anything that is not stowed away you should attach it to something, such as your PFD.
The seal deteriorates over time with frequent use so best to retire after after a period of use & can then be used as storage for small items. I personally downgrade my Aquapacs every 6 months, and use them for less important items such as passports, head phones, USB devices which will also be stored in turn inside my Watershed Ocoee duffel bag.
Aquapac offer a 5 year warranty that covers the bag only, not the contents, so inspect your Aquapac regularly and replace when it shows signs of wear.

Pelican Cases and Microcases - “impact protectors”
Pelican Microcase -They work as great impact protectors, but they can start to leak over time,  especially when sand and grit gets stuck around the seams/o-rings. I use them for items that are already water resistant such as my camera and HandiCam.

Pelican Case - These cases are almost indestructible, water- and impact-proof. I utilise the 1120 case for communications equipment - satellite phone and flares.  These case are rigid and can be difficult to pack in tight places so I limit them to essential items that must be protected from crushing.

Watershed Bags - “Bomber - it is the true Dry bag”
Watershed - I am so impressed with these bags - they are quite expensive but well worth it: soft and easy to load, extremely watertight. To maintain this seal, use 303 Aerospace Protectant (or in a jam, Olive Oil).

I do not leave home without my Ocoee duffel bag. It carries wallets,  phones, batteries, passport and a variety of small electronic devices that must be kept dry. The duffel has four clips to compress down so it can be easily stowed.

The Aleutian Deck Bag is amazing in field/commercial situations. It is carried on the front deck of the kayak - visible to all, carrying the first aid kit, medical summaries, float plan and rescue equipment such as flares (Marine Safety Pack).
Big Creek Backpack is only really used on my Trak Adventures,  for Fishing Kit and Cooking Kit and bits & bobs, as it can be loaded on the back deck of a kayak and remains very water tight.

Grid Tablet Bag:  Carrying your iPad is an amazing tool for trip planning and this is the only way I would carry it.  The iPad does not work so well if the clear panel is wet hard  - makes it difficult to navigate the iPad, but it does protect it from the wet environment extremely well.

Waterproofing Tips and Tricks

  • Dry bags are not designed for prolonged immersion - anything vital should be contained within at least two (preferably 3) layers of water-proofing or in Pelican case/ Watershed bag
  • The degree of waterproofing of a bag can be improved using a strong garbage bag - twist the ends and tie off.
    See our Youtubes:
    How to Make a DRY Bag - Sea to Summit Stuff Sack and
    How to Waterproof your Sleeping Bag
  • Make sure the inside of your kayak’s hatches are clean of sand and sharp points that can abrade you dry bags
  • After 6 months of heavy use, Aquapacs should be retired from their primary use protecting your phone or GPS unit, to use as a second line of defence holding small items such as keys, leads, USB drives inside another dry bag

YouTube Reviews


Water- tightness
Large heavy duty bag to store a variety of items
Sized from 1-20 litres these bags are very versatile for storing softer gear such as clothing, sleeping mats, food
Bulky items such as sleeping bags and puffer jackets clothing, tents, fly sheets, compress down,
Add an extra layer of waterproofing with a garbage bag to be sure if you plan to submerge or are in a very wet environment
Not waterproof in itself, but add a strong garbage bag & tie off and it creates a very effective seal for holding a variety of items such as clothing, sleeping bags, food
Aquapac 108 & 348 Small Electronics/ Smartphone Cases
V Good
Phones and small electronics such as GPS units - clear bag enables use while staying dry. Comes with lanyard to attach to PFD.
Finite lifespan
Impact,  Great for protecting delicate items,
O-ring sealed hard plastic cases in various sizes. Used for storing valuable items such as video cameras, small electronics or personal first aid kit - crushproof
Beware getting sand in the o-ring!
Pelican Case
Impact, and Waterproof. Great for Satellite phones
Back Deck on kayak,
First Aid Kit,  Medical Summaries, 2x orange smoke & 2x red night flares
Wallet, passport, phone, spare batteries, medication

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Across the Bay in a Day - Paddle as a Pod

Each year in May, East Coast Kayaking leads a crossing of Port Phillip Bay. This is an all-day event that gives paddlers with some experience a fantastic opportunity to practise trip planning, teamwork and group management skills.

Paddling As a Pod means we paddle as fast as our slowest paddler, and you may be required to tow or be towed. With the TEAM, together everyone achieves more… IT IS NOT A RACE! It is a fantastic opportunity to paddle, enjoy the Port Phillip Bay and undertake your first extended and exposed paddle in a safe and supportive environment with qualified and experienced paddlers.

Our past trips have included paddling from Portarlington to Hampton Pier (36km) and from Werribee South to Hampton Pier. Depending on the wind and sea conditions we select the optimum route for the day.

It is however, not a paddle for a beginner sea kayaker - you should have completed at least the Sea Starter Course and preferably the Beyond Basics Day Journey or have equivalent experience, as this will ensure all participants are competent in self and assisted rescues, as well as basic paddling skills, making for a safe and enjoyable day. You will be sitting in your kayak for around 7 hours, perhaps as long as 8 hours!

Clothing should be SunSmart but also protect from the cold and be highly visible.
  • Lunch that can be eaten in the kayak
  • Snacks – we will stop every 45mins for a break
  • 2 litres water
Kayak & paddling gear
  • Sea kayak >4.8m length and fitted out with perimeter line, tow point, rudder or skeg -  if fitted to be fully retractable and in proper working order, watertight bulkheads and hatch covers, including positive buoyancy, hand toggles on bow and stern
  • Spray skirt that fits cockpit and paddler, with release strap

Come down to the Training Centre for a chat or link to 
Register your Interest

Check out our YouTube from one of our past trips:

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Kayak Navigation - the Garmin GPSMAP 78sc

Navigating on a kayak trip, whether a day trip or longer expedition may require use of one or more of:

Proficiency in chart reading and the use of a compass is a vital skill when venturing out on the water.

 A good reference for Sea kayaking in the south hemisphere is Sea Kayaking - A Guide For Sea Canoeists by Phil Woodhouse.

This entry is primarily concerned with GPS use, though the Navionics software for iPad and mobile contains some GPS functions. This is not intended as a comprehensive guide, but does give a range of useful functions of this model. For further information contact us on 03 9597 0549 or info@eastcoastkayaking.com

Attend our Show and Tell session - Kayak Navigation
Coming soon in 2015

Why choose this GPS model

  • Colour screen - so different colours of marine charts can be seen
  • BlueCharts for AU, NZ & part of Sth Pacific preloaded
  • Memory expandable with a microSD card slot - you can purchase additional cards & load charts from other areas purchased
  • Buttons are that are easier & quicker to use on the water than touchscreens
And it gives you something to play with as you paddle!

Tips and Tricks 

  • Replace GPS unit’s batteries each day on an expedition, otherwise every 2 days
  • Do not leave open on Map pages as is burns valuable battery life
  • While on the water place GPS unit in an Aquapac 348 waterproof case
  • Understand how to also use a Base plate and Deck-mounted compass, and carry Charts copied onto waterproof paper.  Do not rely on technology 100%! Each person on an expedition should have and know how to use independent GPS units, in case one fails
  • Use Google Earth to plan your trip - useful for finding beaches and landing sites.
  • When working between your GPS, paper charts, Homeport software and Google Earth, make sure you are using the same Lat/Long units (eg. degrees & decimal minutes) and map series (WGS 84)

1. Setup

  • Batteries - use Lithiums - will last 2 days for longer crossings if used with Compass/Trip Computer screen, less for Map page. Select correct Battery type in System
  • Position Format:
    • Charts - will be preloaded & enabled in this model & correct map series selected (WGS 84)
    • Lat/Long - use decimals rather than seconds (hddd°mm.mmm’) - align with your paper charts
  • Display - Battery Saver - leave OFF - otherwise screen will blank and you will waste time pressing buttons to wake it up. Instead reduce battery consumption by reducing Backlighting (reduce Backlight Timeout) and reduce backlight brightness by quickly pressing the power button and use the toggle.
  • Heading - North reference - you can choose True, Magnetic, Grid or User. it is easier to leave as True and be aware of what the magnetic variation is. Also this is the menu where you should Calibrate the compass function.

2. Setting Waypoints

  • Setting a waypoint for the location you are currently at:
    - Hold down the Enter/Mark button and the waypoint screen is opened, recording Lat/Long. Use rocker button to navigate through various fields to add notes or descriptive waypoint name. Enter to select letter/number/Done.
    - Select Done to save & return to Page
  • Setting a waypoint from known Lat/Long to navigate to:
    - Read Lat/Long off chart / atlas / Google Earth or other record (eg. SPOT record from someone elses’ trip!). Make sure the units are the same when copy/pasting Lat/Longs, eg deg & dec minutes
    - Menu / Waypoint Manager / New Waypoint
    - Use rocker button to navigate through various field and add notes or descriptive waypoint name. Enter to select letter/number/Done.
    - For ease of use, if naming waypoints in an area use a meaningful prefix, eg. WP-001 for a waypoint at Wilson’s Prom
    - Return to map or other page or use Go to navigate to this waypoint

3. Creating a Route from a set of Waypoints

A route is a series of two or more waypoints that leads you to your destination. Either first ensure you have all the relevant waypoints already entered in your GPS or select them off the map page as you go.
  • Using existing waypoints:
    - from Main Menu, select Route Planner / Create Route / Select First Point
    - Select Waypoints, then first waypoint by name/number. Enter (selects Use)
    - Toggle to Select Next Point, Enter, then select Waypoints and the next waypoint in the route - continue until all the relevant waypoints are selected
    - Press Quit  button to save the route
  • Name the Route:
    - from Main Menu, select Route Planner
    - Select the route (eg. at this stage it is probably called Route 001), Enter
    - Toggle to Change Name, Enter, then use the keyboard screen & toggle to type a new name, the Done
  • View the Route on a Map
    - from Main Menu, select Route Planner
    - Select the route, then View Map
  • Navigate a Route
    - Press Find button and select Routes
    - Select a route, then Go
    - this will direct you to each waypoint in turn

4. Tracking & use of GPS for direction/speed monitoring - Pages

  • Compass - this page is useful for navigating to next waypoint on a Route - note that it is a straight line so if the waypoint is behind a headland it will point in that direction. Also has speed & distance to next. While in this screen use Menu button to bring up page-specific options - the fields being tracked can be varied.
  • Trip Computer - again the Menu has the option of varying which fields are monitored. Use menu to Reset the fields & Track as you are about to set off on your journey - otherwise the average speed & odometer will continue ofn from your previous journey (& even from the drive to the launch point)
  • Map - the map page displays the current map - two views are possible: North to the top of the map or the course direction to the top. Generally it is preferable to have north to the top as this is usually how we think when orienting a map. The alternate results in the view shifting around a lot with even minor directional changes. To change this go to Main Menu / Map / Orientation. Note that leaving the GPS open to the map page all the time severely reduces battery life.
  • Track Manager - recording your journey:
    • In Setup/Tracks/Track log select Record, Show on Map. Select Record Method - an option to record track points according to Distance, Time or Auto
    • Select Recording Interval - Normal will be ok for most purposes
    • Your track will record as you travel. at the end of your journey save your track by Track Manager/Current Track / Save Track. It is now ready to transfer to your computer if you choose (see below)!
    • Clear the track at the start of your next journey - Setup / Reset/ Clear Current Track / Yes

5. Trip Planning

    1. Charts on the PC/Mac

Rather than use up your GPS batteries, use your computer to aid in trip planning - you can use Garmin’s Homeport software allows you to connect your GPS unit to your PC/Mac and view the Garmin BlueCharts and create waypoints and connect them into routes for your day trip or expedition. You can also view any other purchased  marine charts on this software.
    1. HomePort Software Link

Homeport software is free and is designed to work with the BlueChart marine charts on your GPS so that you can download / upload from your GPS to/from your computer.
    1. Creating Waypoints & Routes ahead of time

  • First select where you want your waypoints / routes to be saved (eg. in My Collection)
  • Creating Waypoints:
    • Use the Waypoint tool in Homeport to simply click on the map where you want to place the waypoint. You can add notes and change the icon in the waypoint’s properties screen.
    • Alternately, click anywhere on the map to create a waypoint, then double click on that waypoint to open its properties window (Advanced tab), then type in the co-ordinates you have previously sourced.

Adding waypoints and connecting them to form a Route
  • Creating Routes:
    • To create a route on the Map - click on the Route tool and click on the locations on the map you want the route to follow. To end and save the route right-click or Esc.
    • To create a route from a set of waypoints, select a waypoint or use Command key to select multiple waypoints and and click Create Route from Waypoint(s). To edit the route hold down the Option key to add extra points to bend your route around land masses.
Create and edit Routes in Homeport

    1. Using Homeport with Google Earth

Use Google Earth to plan your trip - useful for finding beaches and landing sites. Use the Add Placemark button to mark a point. Copy the latitude & longitude from the Google earth placemark info window into a new waypoint in Waypoint Manager or in the Homeport software.

    1. Uploading and Downloading from your computer
  • Save your waypoints and tracks from your trip to your computer:
    - Connect the Garmin GPSMap 78sc to your computer using the USB lead and open Homeport software.
    - Use the Transfer / Receive from Device… menu item or Receive button
    - Select what you want to transfer - eg. waypoints and tracks. All the data of this type will be transferred so it is useful to clean up the memory from time to time.
    - The tracks and waypoints will be saved as a list in My Collection as Recently Read from [device name] - you should rename this list to something more meaningful
  • If you have created a set of waypoints and routes on your computer as part of trip planning you can transfer these to your GPS unit.
    - Connect the Garmin GPSMap 78sc to your computer using the USB lead and open Homeport software.
    - Select the list you want to transfer from My Collection
    - Use the Transfer / Send [List name] to Device … menu item or Send List button

    1. Other features - tides and currents

  • On the GarminGPSMap 78sc: go to Tides and Currents using the Find button and select either Tides or Currents. A list of nearby tide/current stations will appear - select one with the Enter button. Then Menu / Review Point will give you the high & low tides / currents for the current day.  Menu again brings up more options including a Chart of the tide heights and the ability to choose a different day (Change Date - then left or right toggle).
  • In HomePort: there are Tide and Current menu buttons - click on either to bring up a list of tide and current stations. Click on any one of these points to show tide or current data respectively - the “i” info icon will reveal a chart of the data.

Tides function in Homeport

Checking our route
- waterproof paper on our SW Tasmania adventure
Never rely solely on electronics!

Electronic devices can let you down so never rely wholly on them - trying to push batteries too far or ingress by salt water could spoil your day. Always have a back up - know how to navigate with a base plate compass and carry charts copied on waterproof paper on your deck. Enlarge the detail so they can be read unaided!

In December 2013 we kayaked the SW Tasmanian Wilderness of Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey in our Trak Seeker 16T Performance sea kayaks - the Garmin GPSMap 78sc performed brilliantly and we also referred to paper charts. 
Check out our YouTube of the journey!