Safety While Kayaking

(January 2012)
Lots of folks visit the area for the spectacular snorkeling. Many go to Soliman and Tankah Bays each year; it is so serene, they donít feel it warrants wearing or taking a life vest when they go out in the kayak. There have been a few deaths in the past where unexpected waves capsize the kayak, and one person goes to aid their family member in the water and ends up dying. Also, the waves created by the currents look like they would be fun to surf in a kayak, but the current can pull you out past the reef into dangerous waters.
Jeff and I own Villa Maya Jardin in Soliman Bay. One of our guests sent us the following story of an event that happened during Christmas week 2011. If there is somewhere you can give visibility to this danger and how easy and important it is to wear a life vest, please do.
"Christmas Day was windy with large waves off shore. In mid-afternoon just before I was about to take a nap, I checked out the scene on the bay with my binoculars, and saw what appeared to be someone trying to ride the big waves that were breaking in the gap in the reef right off the house. It soon became apparent that he wasn't trying to ride the waves at all, but was trying to reach his companion who'd fallen off his kayak and had drifted quite far from it. After capsizing a number of times he did reach the swimmer but they were unable to keep the kayak upright being in the middle of 8-10 foot waves. They both held on and raised their paddles in the hopes someone would see them, but they were clearly drifting rapidly to the southeast. Mauricio wasn't home so I grabbed my son who speaks a few words of Spanish and we drove down to the hotel. I knew we had a real challenge on our hands when after telling the receptionist the problem, she had to get the manager first. She disappeared to find the manager, who apparently dispatched their boatman, Tomas, to take their motor boat out to find them. By the time we caught up with things Tomas was looking in totally the wrong area. Fortunately he spoke excellent English, so when he returned we relayed what we saw, and he had us put on life vests to join him for the rescue. We quickly found the deserted kayak amid the surf, and by chance caught a glimpse of the tops of the oars a good quarter of a mile off shore well beyond the breakers. Getting through the surf was rather exciting, but once beyond the breakers we were able to quickly find the two, holding on to an overturned kayak for dear life without so much as a life preserver. Tomas had them abandon the kayak and swim to us where he had to haul them aboard. After another exciting ride going with the waves, we finally got back to the shelter of the bay. They were a father and son (60ish and 30ish) who indeed were oblivious to the dangers in that area of the bay. They were of course as grateful as could be and all ended happily. You of course warn your guests about the currents, but apparently some houses don't."
Submitted by Tuck Buffum, guest at Maya Jardin. We are grateful to the Jashita Hotel for their motor boat and to Tomas, who completed the rescue.
Best regards for a great 2012,
Sherry Harvey and Jeff Ashmead
Villa Maya Jardin and Villa Playa Belleza

P.S. Another tip from Sherry. Where the surf breaks over the reef, itís not so bad. It is where the reef stops and the currents work to get the waves 3-10 feet (hard to imagine, but when youíre out there, they are) and you cannot keep control or right side up in the kayak. Other advice is to chill out in your life vest and let the current take you out and downóour friend did this and he just floated into the next bay down (Tankah). Swimming sideways to get out of the current is always good as well.

We at Sac-Be would like also to add that you should never snorkel, swim or kayak without a buddy and always let someone know where you will be. In addition to currents and waves there is always the chance of getting stung or experiencing a cramp. Enjoy your time, but always play it safeódon't leave your common sense at the border!

kayaking safely

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