Canoeing and Kayaking
A few simple rules—along
with a lot of respect for the forces out there in the natural
world—will help you avoid the kinds of situations that otherwise
might cause discomfort, injury, or even death.
- There is indeed safety in numbers—don’t
boat alone. Recommended minimum is three people, two craft.
- Wear your personal
flotation device (lifejacket—PFD). It not only makes good
sense—it’s the law.
- Recognize your limits.
Avoid situations that are beyond your boating and swimming ability.
- Become a competent
- Learn the essential
canoeing/kayaking strokes and practice them until they become
“second nature.” The safest boater is a skillful boater.
- Think and plan ahead.
Know what hazards you are likely to encounter—rocks, down
trees, waterfalls, sharp turns; lake waters that can turn into
nasty chop if the wind comes up.
- Be suitably prepared
and equipped—proper footgear, sun protection, raingear,
spare dry clothing, rescue line, extra paddle, duct tape, first-aid,
map, knife, etc. as your particular trip may require. Secure
- Know and respect
the water you choose to paddle. Check River classifications and
be sure to find out what the water conditions are or will be
at time of launch. Check weather forecasts for the area. Consider
recent rains, local and upstream, temperatures, winds, and likely
conditions, i.e., afternoon winds, late-afternoon showers, chilling
- Beware of cold water
and weather extremes. Dress appropriately.
- Be sure your craft
is in good repair.
- Equip your canoe
(optional for kayaks) with bow and stern lines, 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch
lines 10 to 15 feet long. Fasten securely and leave the free
end unknotted and accessible. Do not use these lines to tie in
- Have a safety plan.
Understand your responsibility to help your partner and other
members in your group.
- Keep boats a safe
distance apart. Allow the boat in front of you to clear a potentially
hazardous stretch before you enter it yourself.
If you spill...
If possible, hold
onto your boat and get to its upstream end so you won’t
be crushed against rocks. Stay calm and follow rescuers' instructions.
If others spill...
Go after the boater
first. In a group, upstream boaters head to shore, go forward
with rescue line to the capsize. Downstream boaters stand by
to pick up people and, secondarily, gear. Rescue the boat only
if this can be done safely.
Whistle signals can quickly communicate information to every
member of the group. Be sure everyone knows the code:
Two blasts—go to shore
Three blasts—capsize, take proper action for rescue
Four blasts—approaching powerboat or jetski