Tips for Staying Safe While Enjoying Our Waterways

  • 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.
  • Use a 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.
  • Carry a 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.
  • Carry a 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.
  • Carry a spare paddle and paddle leash.