Wear a Personal Flotation Device
You must wear a personal floatation device (PFD) or life jacket. A life jacket will ensure that you keep afloat if you do fall out of your canoe. It will also assist with swimming through the rapids and downed trees and will provide hypothermia protection.
The following equipment is recommended for your canoeing or kayaking trip;
• Spare paddle
• Bow and stern lines
• Extra safety throwing line – at least 50 feet long
• First Aid Kit
• Waterproof Dry Bag – to store smaller items including; food sunscreen bug repellent etc.
• Water baler – half soft drink bottle or small bucket for baling out water from boat
Don’t Crowd Fellow Canoeists
Don’t crowd other boats. Keep a safe distance behind boats especially in rapids and restricted passages. After you have navigated a difficult section, pull up and wait nearby to ensure all boats make it through. Be prepared to stop and offer assistance to your companions if required.
If your friend Capsizes
Offer assistance to other capsized boats remember people first and then equipment. If the water is cold get them ashore as soon as possible to dry off and warm up. Be aware that they may be confused so remain calm and encourage them to do likewise.
If 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.
Ensure that you have checked the weather forecast; including sky and sea conditions before you depart on your trip. It is a good idea to carry a waterproof weather radio or hand held VHF Marine radio to allow you to continue to check the conditions during your trip. REMEMBER the weather and water situation can change very quickly so never set out or continue your trip if the weather change exceeds your capabilities.
Getting Into & loading your Canoe
The safest and most balanced way to get into your canoe is by first putting your canoe fully into the water along the bank or jetty parallel to the shore. Then sit on the bank or jetty; put your two feet into the canoe spaced to either side and put your hands on the side rails then sit down slowly and balanced.
When loading, firstly make sure you are not going to overload the canoe. Ensure that you load is securely tied to the canoe so it does not move around.
Footwear is highly recommended whilst canoeing. The terrain, especially on the river bottom can be very hazardous and bare feet will provide no protection. Sports shoes will provide protection and will dry out quicker if they get wet.
Overboard in Current
If you do fall into the water ensure that you stay up stream of yours and other canoes. Floating up stream will avoid being pinned against a canoe or other obstruction. Stay away from objects in the water including strainers (trees and parts of trees or posts submerged subject to strong currents) and sweepers (low hanging tree branches which skim the water in a current). If the current does push you into an obstruction; lean your body toward the obstruction instead of pushing away.
Handling Hot Weather – Paddling in the Heat
During the hot weather, remember to pack extra drinking water and keep well hydrated throughout the day. Ensure you take regular breaks in the shade and keep an eye on your fellow paddlers for signs of serious sunburn, heat exhaustion and sunstroke.
Stay Out Of Cold Water
Hypothermia is a real danger if you fall into water with a temperature of less than 98.6 degrees. Your body will immediately start to cool down and if your body temperature goes below 85 degrees this is very dangerous. The following steps are suggested if you fall into cold water:
• Act quickly before you lose the use of your hands
• Right a capsized boat of climb atop it if possible
• Tighten your clothes and try to cover you head
• Stay still – assume a position that minimizes heat loss
• Don’t swim unless it’s to reach a nearby boat. Swimming uses heat and energy and cuts survival time in half.
• If you’re in the water with one or more persons, huddle together closely
• If you’re a rescuer, don’t apply heat to arms or legs, or give massages or hot baths. The best way to warm a victim is with body-to-body contact and a tight blanket.