Paddling Safety Tips
- Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Be comfortable in the water, out of your boat.
- Obtain the knowledge, skills and ability necessary for kayaking and canoeing.
- Always boat with a group. Three boats is a recommended minimum.
- Know how to self-rescue. Practice! Practice! Practice!
- File a float plan, with friends, family, or the authorities.
- Bring appropriate safety, rescue, and navigational aids, and more than adequate food, water, and extra protective clothing. Do not wear cotton!
- Pick an activity level that matches your ability and progress to more demanding challenges.
- Monitor your physical and emotional condition, and watch the other members or your group for fatigue, illness, and changes in behavior.
- Know and follow all local, state and federal laws.
- Be visible - wear bright colors so others can see you between waves or in the fog. Carry a bright light, flares, and whistle to signal your position.
- Take a boating safety class offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
The United States Power Squadrons suggests that paddlers have these safety essentials with them:
- Life vest. Your personal flotation device should be highly visible, adjust to accommodate different clothing weights and allow free arm movement. It should also be comfortable enough to wear zipped anytime you're on the water.
- Spray skirt. A spray skirt seals you inside the kayak. One end fits around your waist, and the other end attaches to the cockpit coaming. Although not completely waterproof, a spray skirt keeps water out of the cockpit, protects your legs from the sun and keeps you warm in cold weather.
- Bilge pump. A hand-operated bilge pump can help you remove water from your boat. Make sure it has a float collar so it won't sink.
- Paddle float and rescue sling. An inflatable bladder that slips over a paddle blade, a paddle float provides flotation and support when you re-enter your boat from the water. A rescue sling is a piece of floating line made into a loop with double fisherman's knots. It's useful for rigging a stirrup to give you a boost as you climb back into the cockpit.
- Spare paddle and paddle leash.
- Signaling devices. You'll need a variety of sound and visual signals for day and night use. Your stash should include a waterproof flashlight, whistle, flares, strobes, smoke canisters, dye markers and signaling mirrors.
- VHF radio and cell phone. A VHF radio lets you put out a distress call to the Coast Guard and nearby boaters. A cell phone is best for staying in touch with people on shore.
More information on safe paddling: