Sailing off on your boat or kayak might sound like a peaceful adventure. However, it's wise to take basic precautions so you not only enjoy your excursion but stay healthy and safe to enjoy many more outings. Follow these safety guidelines whenever you're boating or kayaking.
Stay Within Your Skill Set
Testing the limits of your capabilities is not wise when you're out on the water. While you don't have to be an expert, you need to have the strength and skills to handle paddling. Everyone should also know how to execute a wet exit, a self-rescue, and a T-rescue. If you're a novice paddler:
- Stay in calm and flat waters without rapids.
- Keep to small bodies of water, such as little lakes and large ponds.
- Choose spots where there are other kayakers around; avoid spots where there are power boats.
- Look for areas where you'll have a tailwind when you turn for home.
- Maintain a route that's close to shore.
Bring Safety Gear
Pack safety gear and test everything you bring so you know it works and you know how to use it. Some gear is easy to use, and other items are more complicated.
- Always boat or kayak with a personal safety device that fits you snugly.
- Attach a whistle to your personal flotation device so you can blow it to get attention.
- Bring a cellphone in a waterproof case.
- A bilge pump will help if you need to remove water from your vessel.
- Spare paddles are good to have if something happens to yours.
- You'll need to train to use a paddle float, but this device enables you to rescue yourself.
- A towline can connect your kayak with another kayak to tow someone to shore.
- Pack a headlamp in case you're out after dark.
Dress to Be Immersed in the Water
Anytime you're in a boat or kayak, assume that you will end up in the water. Dress accordingly to prepare for this situation.
- If the water you're kayaking in is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, wear a wet or dry suit to prevent hypothermia.
Don't Kayak Alone
Expert kayakers may be fine kayaking by themselves, but novices should never go out alone. Bringing along a companion makes kayaking much safer.
- A buddy can help with a rescue, and you or your companion can also tow each other if necessary.
- If you're kayaking in a group, make sure everyone stays within earshot of each other.
Check Local Conditions and Potential Hazards
When you're kayaking in an unfamiliar area, do your research before you go out. You need to know all about the hazards you might face.
- Check the weather forecast and look at the sky. If the weather could turn bad, don't go out. Get off the water if the weather gets bad unexpectedly.
- Speak with locals to learn what it's like on the water. Ask about underwater hazards, swells, and difficult currents. If a local government agency patrols the water, check with them, too.
- When you're on the water, assume that other boaters don't see you to avoid collisions.
Make and Share Your Float Plan
Your float plan has all of the important details about your outing. Share the plan with whoever will miss you the soonest if you don't return in a reasonable amount of time.
- Include the names of everyone in your party along with their contact information.
- Specify where you plan to put in and take out.
- Indicate both your launch and return times.
- Suggest what your contact person should do if you don't return at a reasonable time.