Canoeing is a wonderful pastime and a fantastic bonding activity. Not only is it loads of fun, but it’s also one of the safest water activities. While anything can happen when on the water, avoiding dangerous situations while canoeing is pretty easy.
All you have to do is plan and prepare for safety when paddling a canoe. Below are the most important canoeing safety tips that you should always remember to canoe safely and enjoy your paddling adventures.
1. Always Wear A Canoeing Life Jacket
The most important canoe safety rule is to always wear a life jacket. It’s the most important canoeing safety equipment to have but it can only protect you if you’re wearing it, not when it’s stowed in a dry bag beyond your reach.
We recommend opting for a personal floatation device designed specifically for paddling. Such a canoeing PFD will neither get in the way of paddling your canoe nor feel uncomfortable. We also recommend attaching a paddling whistle and strobe to your life jacket.
2. Always Be Aware Of The Weather and Conditions
Before you embark on any paddling adventure, do your homework on the weather and water conditions. Depending on where you’re going canoeing, research river flow levels, wind warnings, air and water temperature, currents, tides, and wave action.
High winds, extreme temperatures, fog, and thunderstorms are all conditions you shouldn’t canoe in. Beyond this, keep an eye on the conditions while on the water as the weather and water conditions are unpredictable and can change in the blink of an eye.
If the current is strong and pulling you along or you notice rocks or trees ahead, paddle to avoid these hazards and get back to shore. If you find yourself paddling in the waves, the most important thing is to avoid a strong wave hitting the side of your canoe.
3. Wear The Right Clothing
Now that you have an idea of the conditions to expect, wear appropriate clothes that will keep you comfortable. For summer canoeing, wear UV protective, and quick-drying clothes made of synthetic fabrics and accessorize with a sun hat and sunglasses. When canoeing in the cold, don a wetsuit or a dry suit to stay dry and warm.
And since the conditions on the water can change abruptly, it’s best to wear layers you can subtract or add to when the weather calls for it. Also, it’s important to pack a change of clothing if your canoe tips over.
4. Make Sure You Have All The Essential Canoeing Safety Equipment
Since you never know what the water has in store for you, it’s wise to be prepared for the worst. For a comfortable and safe canoeing experience, you should bring with you the canoeing safety items in the following canoe safety checklist:
- A life jacket for everyone in the canoe, a tow line, and a throwable flotation device for canoeing
- Emergency canoeing safety items including a knife, a whistle, flares, a first aid kit, and an emergency weather radio
- Plenty of food and water to replenish your energy and keep you hydrated
- A spare paddle, a tether for the paddle you’re using, and a paddle float
- A helmet for protection when paddling in moving water or rivers with rapids
- Navigational equipment such as a map, chart, compass, or a GPS unit
- A dry bag to keep your gear and equipment dry and secure
5. To Avoid Tipping Your Canoe
Generally, canoes are very stable vessels and hard to tip over. However, you can easily flip your canoe if you do some things. Since tipping over is the last thing you want, observe the following precautions and your canoe won’t tip over easily:
- When boarding the canoe, have someone hold the canoe to keep it steady.
- Crouch low and hold on to the sides of the canoe for support as you walk to your seat.
- Walking along the centerline is the key to preventing the canoe from rocking as you move.
- The lower you can sit on your canoe, the more stable it will be. Thus, always sit on the seats or in the center and remain seated while on the water. Standing or walking in your canoe can destabilize it and so can sudden and jerky movements.
- As for canoeing rules for organizing your gear, stow your belongings in dry bags and pack gear side-to-side and front-to-back with the heaviest loads in the center. It’s also a good idea to secure the dry bags to your canoe so they don’t slide around and de-stabilize the vessel.
6. Practice Righting and Re-entering A Canoe After A Capsize
Even when you’ve done everything you can to avoid a capsize, your canoe can still tip over. For this reason, it’s important to know what to do in the event of a canoe tip over. Practicing flipping a canoe back over and entering it while on the water can help you remain calm and handle the situation calmly and efficiently.
7. Other Canoeing Tips for Safety
- Choose a canoeing spot carefully. It should be sheltered from the waves and wind, and have good places for launching and minimal powerboat traffic. Calm bays and quiet lakes and rivers are the ideal canoeing spots.
- Know your skill level and physical fitness and only go canoeing in waterways that are within your paddling abilities. Paddling a canoe is a demanding activity especially if you encounter rough conditions. Paddling in a waterway that is beyond your abilities is risky.
- Before you embark on any excursion, check your canoe for holes and damages and make any necessary repairs to ensure your boat is in good working condition.
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Canoeing is incredibly fun but demanding. And, just like with any other activity on the water, accidents can happen. This is why proper planning is essential. Following the above canoeing safety tips and having the important canoeing safety items at hand will ensure your paddling adventures are enjoyable and safe.