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Boating Basics

Paddling down a river can be safe and enjoyable. But, according to statistics, paddlers in small crafts, such as canoes, kayaks, and rafts, are more than twice as likely to drown as those operating other types of vessels.

Paddlers need to consider themselves “boaters.” They must adhere to the same laws as operators of any other type of vessel and should follow the same safety practices.

Preparing for Safety

As a paddler, you can take steps to help ensure your safety.

Always wear a life jacket.

Make sure you have the skills needed to operate a small, unstable craft safely and to reboard the craft from the water. These skills are best learned through hands-on training.

Never paddle alone. Bring along at least one other boater. Three crafts with two paddlers each is recommended. If unfamiliar with the waterway, be sure to paddle with someone who is knowledgeable about it.

Never overload the craft. Tie down gear, and distribute weight evenly. Maintain a low center of gravity and three points of contact. Keep your weight centered in the craft. Leaning a shoulder over the edge of the craft can destabilize it enough to cause it to capsize.

Leave a float plan with a friend or relative. Map a general route with a timetable when embarking on a long trip.

Know the weather conditions before you head out. While paddling, watch the weather and stay close to shore. Head for shore if the waves increase.

Kayakers paddling.
Always wear a life jacket.