STACK THE DECK IN YOUR FAVOR – BE PREPARED!
1. PREPARE A FLOAT PLAN - choose a float plan that is within the skills and endurance of your group given the paddling conditions that day. Include rest stops and alternate takeout’s in your float plan in the event of an emergency. Leave a copy of your plan with someone on shore & carry emergency contact #’s for your group with you.
2. COMMUNICATIONS & NAVIGATION – check weather, tides, marine charts, maps etc. & chart your course accordingly. Agree on hand & whistle signals. Carry a map and at least one compass. A GPS is a nice addition, but should not be your only tool.
3. PADDLE IN A GROUP – paddling in a group where members stay together on the water and are proficient in both self and assisted rescue techniques is the best scenario for safety.
4. WEAR YOUR PFD – It is always wise to wear a properly fitting PFD with sufficient buoyancy to support you if you capsize. It is essential whenever you paddle in cold water. Attaching a whistle (loud, waterproof & salt tolerant) ensures that your signaling device is always handy.
5. WEAR A SPRAY SKIRT – a good fitting water tight spray skirt reduces the risk of swamping which in turn reduces the probability that you will capsize. A well fitted neoprene skirt will conserve more body heat than a nylon splash skirt.
6. SAFETY GEAR – carry/know how to use a paddle float, stirrup, bilge pump, signal whistle and emergency knife. Make sure someone in your group has a spare paddle, tow belt, cell phone and/or handheld marine radio, first aid, repair & signal kits (flares, strobes, flags) and emergency contact information for each participant.
7. KAYAK FLOTATION – sealed hatches with bulkheads or airbags reduce the amount of water in a swamped kayak. Less water makes rescues easier and quicker which reduces immersion time. Hatch cover tethers ensure that you can seal your hatches.
8. DECK RIGGING – check your deck lines regularly and replace them before they become worn or weak. Practice rescues and modify your deck rigging until it works for you. For example, adding a slack line can help you hold onto your boat. Adding deck straps can help you do an effective paddle float re-entry.
9. HAVE A WAY TO SECURE YOUR PADDLE – a paddle biner, ball or leash will tether your paddle to your kayak & reduce the risk that you will lose it on a windy day or if you capsize.
10. WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING – protect yourself from COLD SHOCK by preventing cold water contact with your chest, back, neck and head. Protect yourself from HYPOTHERMIA by preventing the loss of body heat. Choose layers that wick moisture away from your skin, absorb little or no water, insulate when wet and block wind and precipitation.
11. CARRY A 2nd SET OF CLOTHING – stow a change of clothes in a sealed dry bag inside a hatch. Include a base layer that insulates even when wet, a windproof / waterproof outer layer, and garments to keep your head, hands and feet warm.
12. FOOD AND WATER – carry enough food and water to sustain you in the “worst case” scenario. The longer your trip, the farther off shore, the greater the need for self sufficiency including emergency shelter. Save caffeine & alcohol for après’ paddle consumption.
Detailed articles on cold water conditions and lightning can be found in the attachments below.