by Don Greene
Know the waters you plan to paddle in. Keep a chart aboard of the waters you are going to paddle in. Let others know where you are heading – write a float trip which lists estimated time to return and who is with you. Do not paddle alone. Check the weather report. Changes of weather conditions can effect your trip plans.
Best Paddling Practices
Stay alert and be ready to move out of danger. Stay visible as others may not see you. Carry a horn, whistle, and flashlight onboard.
Prepare to Paddle Safely
A type 3 life jacket is recommended. Choose one that fits you comfortably. Read the life jacket label. Buckle it or zip it, having it aboard will not do you any good if you do not wear it.
Dress for Success
Besides your life jacket, there are important things you should wear for your safety. Wear a wide brim hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, to protect yourself from the sun. Even on a cloudy day, UV rays bounce off the water and can leave you with an awful sunburn. The hat and sunglasses will help with glare that can impare your vision. Also, wear shoes that will stay on your feet if you go in the water.
Stay Clear of Channels
When crossing a channel, check for other boats moving in the channel. Check the wind and tide. Stop paddling to check drift. Choose the closest place to cross and go quickly. Pass off the stern of a moving boat.
Boarding and Re-entry
Any number of incidents can put you in the water. Practice with a partner re-entrying the boat from the water. A powerboat bow wave can put you in the water quickly. Stay calm and stay with the boat.
Plan to get wet and bring a change of dry clothes. To minimize your chances of going overboard, keep your weight balanced. When fishing, try to keep your shoulders inside the gunnel to reduce a chance of capsizing.
Never Boat Under the Influence
Bring plenty of water – and drink it! A group of paddlers is safer and more fun but do not make it a drinking party.
Don Greene, Flotilla Support Officer – Vessel Examination, USCG Aux, Mystic Flotilla 25-3, has been doing vessel inspections for three years. For more information on getting your free safety inspection please call Don at 860.608.1075. For more information on safe paddling, visit the American Canoe Association website at www.americancanoe.org.