Making an Emergency Shelter on a Beach

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When a sea kayaker is faced with a hypothermic casualty, a landing is imperative. This will provide the opportunity to stabilise your casualty and try to warm them up while you wait for the cavalry to arrive. You'll have to land on the closest bit of shoreline that is safe and there may not be vehicular access or nearby civilisation to get your casualty to help. So a basic shelter to protect your casualty (and yourself) will be needed.

Now, this is not a 'Bear Grylls' survival programme (we don't gut fish with our teeth)! We just need a simple and effective method of getting a shelter up quickly. The first priority is to find a secure place to settle your casualty away from any potential rock slides, falling branches or slippage of any kind. Whilst doing this, you'll be looking for as much natural shelter from the elements as possible. Once a suitable place has been found, lay down whatever insulation you have i.e. foam sleeping mats, dry grass, leafy branches, spare clothing et cetera. Dig down into the shingle or sand so the casualty lies slightly below ground level, this will add some protection. Next, bring your sea kayak(s) alongside to act as a windbreak and fill the gaps with shingle/sand. And finally, install your tarp; a strong sheet of canvas secured with cordage. Use your paddles to give you some height and secure the cordage ends to your sea kayaks or alternatively, you can tie off to your spare paddles and bury the paddles. Another effective method is the use of dry bags filled with sand or shingle to secure the lines.

Once this has been done, you can attend to your casualty by changing them into dry clothing, providing food and hot fluids and general comfort. The next step is to build a long fire down one side to provide warmth; don't build it too close to the casualty and a fire shield behind the fire is quick and easy to build and reflects the heat back in.

So all simple and quick methods to provide a simple but very effective shelter - the key, however, is to carry a good quality and sturdy tarp already fitted with cordage at each corner. This bit of kit should be carried by all sea kayakers and should be compulsory gear for any Leader.

To find out more or put your skills to the test, why not join one of our courses, please visit our 'Courses' page for further information and available dates.

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Published On: 5th February 2016