Canoe and Kayak Safety
(From a U. S. Coast Guard media release - August 2002) CANOEIST AND KAYAKERS: Those Who Really Need To Wear A Life Jacket: 104 Reported Deaths In 2000 And 93 Were Drowning Victims… Why does the Coast Guard care, and why is it necessary to encourage theses enthusiast to wear lifejackets? It is not that Canoeist, kayakers, anglers, and hunters are of a greater concern to the Coast Guard and the States than power or sailboats. No, it’s more of concern for the stability of the vessels, the environmental conditions they are attracted to and many times the lack of other boaters or people being in the isolated areas where they boat. Getting the message to these marine and sport enthusiast has been and is difficult, yet they are in a category that needs to hear it the most.
round many canoeist, kayakers, hunters and anglers venture into waters that
are isolated or where the scenery or their thrill carries its own set of
dangers. Canoeists, as do many kayakers, like to venture on secluded lakes and
ponds or secluded sections of rivers, tributaries, and streams and even back
bays or inlets. There are not many boaters or others in these secluded areas
and many times such areas are unmarked, are hard to find and take time to
reach. Wearing a lifejacket may buy the time that saves a life or lives.
Kayakers are not only found using isolated waters, they love and seek white/rapid waters and now even are seen off shore, in bays, and harbors where congestion and their low profile or visibility threatens their safety. Accidents on these waters produce impact and trauma injuries and wearing a lifejacket may well be the only opportunity for surviving. Too often accidents on these waters incapacitate an individual or render them unconscious. A lifejacket keeps them from sinking below the surface. Very seldom, can rescuers reach someone in time once they have sunk below the surface.
2000, twenty eight states in the U. S. had requirements that non-powered
vessels be numbered, and 24 states required registration. Sixteen states
required titling of non-powered vessels, and seven required payment of a user
fee. If you're not sure of the registration laws in your state, you should
A FLOAT PLAN...If you're on a canoe or kayaking trip, somebody ought to know
if you get into trouble, and the only way that can happen is if you tell a
friend in advance of your trip . Give that person the names of all passengers
or companions, the place you'll be starting and ending your trip, when you
plan to arrive at your destination and any waypoints in between. You should
also include phone numbers of law enforcement agencies along the way, with
instructions on when and who to contact if you are overdue.
HONEST...It's important to know the limitations of your abilities. Be honest
with yourself and your companions. Your life and the lives of those in your
party may depend on how everyone understands each other's capabilities. If you
overstate your abilities, eventually someone is going to be counting on help
that you won't be able to give them, so if you're a novice, admit it. If
you're a pro, admit that, too. The novices in the group will feel better
knowing you're along on the trip.
THE WATER...Don't attempt rivers or rapids beyond your ability. Progress
gradually from one skill level to the next. Unfamiliar waters are no place to
test your limits, or try to impress anybody. Each stream or river presents
unique challenges, and dangers. Even well-seasoned veterans need to become
familiar with the body of water before embarking on a journey.
KNOW THE WATER STAGE...After heavy rains, streams, rivers, and creeks rise and sweep lots of debris from the shoreline. Debris can become a trap or hindrance in water incidents. Debris can be found in three levels: on the surface, suspended in the water and on the bottom. It's important to remember that just about any material or object may be in any, or all, of the three types of debris in water. Suspended and bottom debris is usually invisible to you, and therefore are especially dangerous.
IN A GROUP...Boating alone is not recommended. Even though recreational
canoeists often canoe with a single canoe and one partner, or even solo, it is
recommended you canoe with at least three people or two craft. The less the
skill of the paddler, and the less that is known about the stream, the more
important this rule becomes.
forget shoes. Tennis shoes are best for canoeing and should be worn at all
times. Bare feet have no place in canoeing...the terrain of the land and the
bottoms of streams can be hazardous.
CARRY PROPER EQUIPMENT...Carry a spare paddle in the boat. Equip your craft with bow and stern lines. An extra safety throwing line (at least 50 feet in length) can be very valuable. But be careful how you stow these lines. If the canoe spills, feet can become entangled in loose lines, and this can lead to serious trouble. There should be nothing around which will attach someone to a swamped canoe. Loose lines can be deadly.
may also be state equipment requirements for canoes and kayaks where you live,
so be sure and check your local equipment regulations.)
YOUR BOAT...Distribute the weight evenly. Look for ways to save space and to
leave excess weight behind.
YOUR BOAT...Make sure your boat's load is balanced, side to side and front to
back. Don't overload the boat, and if your are carrying cargo, make sure it's
secured so it doesn't shift around.
CROWD YOUR BUDDY...In rapids and restricted passages, keep a safe distance
behind other boats. Don't crowd, and back paddle if necessary. The lead boat
should pull up and wait after passing a difficult area. If someone encounters
trouble, be willing to stop and offer your assistance. At put-in and take-out
points, be courteous and take turns.
OUT OF FLOOD WATERS...Growing up on the Mississippi, I remember the temptation
to get out the canoe and paddle around the streets running swift with flood
waters. But flood waters can exert several tons of force on a canoe pinned
against a tree or bridge pier or the side of a building. A canoe can be pinned
under a log jam or downed tree, trapping its paddlers. So stay out of flood
waters. And if you happen to be canoeing or camping and heavy rain forces you
to leave - don't try to cross waterways with heavy drainage. We don't want to
read about you in the morning news.
OUT OF COLD WATER...You don't have to worry about hypothermia if you're
boating in water over 98.6 degrees. If you fall into water less than that
temperature, your body will begin immediately to cool in the direction of the
water temperature. If your bod temp gets down to about 85 degrees, you're
pretty much done for. Cold water causes death in nearly half of the drowning
cases reported. If you do fall into cold water, follow these steps:
HANDLING HOT WEATHER...Hot weather can be as dangerous as cold water. Water and aluminum canoes cause considerable reflection on sunny days which may lead to serious sunburn, heat exhaustion or sunstroke. Everyone enjoys getting out in the sun, but canoeing in a swimsuit or bikini can be dangerous. Canoeists need to wear or carry a shirt, blouse or jacket. Hats or other head coverings help prevent heat exhaustion or sunstroke. Know the symptoms and first aid procedures for these serious conditions.
IN CURRENT...In rivers with a current, stay upstream of the boat to avoid
being pinned. Don't float with your body on the down river side of the canoe.
Staying upstream allows you to avoid being pinned against obstructions. Even a
light current flow can cause you to be pinned between an immovable object and
your canoe. Stay away from strainers (trees and parts of trees or posts which
are submerged and subject to strong currents), and sweepers (low-hanging
branches which touch the water in a current). If you are swept by the flow
against an obstruction, lean your body toward the obstruction instead of
pushing away. Pushing invites the flow to come in and over the side more
YOU DUNK...Be ready for an occasional dunking when you canoe. Don't panic. In
calm waters, angle your way up to shore instead of paddling straight. Stay
behind the boat, and hold onto it for flotation. Always wear your life jacket.
YOU CAPSIZE...If your boat capsizes, don't panic. Your canoe can be flipped
back over. Over-turned canoes float. First, assure that all passengers are
safe before attempting to retrieve equipment. Stay with your canoe unless you
judge that doing so will be dangerous. If you can stay with the canoe you can
guide it into quiet water. Stay at the upstream end of the canoe so that if
the canoe becomes pinned, you don't. If possible hold on to your
paddle...you'll need it later. Don't try to swim in rapids. Float in your life
jacket on your back, with your feet downstream. If the water is cold, get
YOUR BUDDY CAPSIZES...If someone else's canoe has dumped offer your
assistance. If it comes down to a rescue, remember...it's the people first,
then the equipment. If it's cold, get them ashore, dry them and warm them
immediately. It may not occur to them that they're uncomfortable because of
confusion. Above all, keep calm and encourage the "dunkees" to do