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Transcript for Paddling Safely

Haley: Okay! Perspective check. If you are paddling a canoe, a kayak, or a stand-up paddleboard, you are the smallest. And it’s up to you to make others aware of you and to be vigilant.

Sharing the Waterways

Haley: The safest practice is to stay out of the way of big boats due to their limited ability to maneuver.

Rob: To let people know you’re there, bring a flashlight, headlamp, lantern, or flare.

Haley: And don’t forget a whistle or other sound-producing device.

Rob: In a vast body of water like this, it may be your only chance to get someone’s attention.

And you have to follow the rules like the big boats. Like Homeland Security laws. Basically, keeping a safe distance from military and commercial vessels and stay out of restricted or security zones. Be courteous to everyone, and lend a hand if you can.

If you end up in a narrow shipping channel, you’ve got to get out of the way. Stay close to your starboard shore as long as it’s safe. [Starboard Shore = Your Right Shore] And if you have to cross a channel, do it at a right angle with a group and paddle, paddle, paddle.

Haley: There’s a whole book of navigation rules from the U.S. Coast Guard. You should read it. But here are a few basics.

There are all kinds of buoys and markers. Thoroughly assess the waterway and its conditions. Most of the time, red colors and red lights mark the edge of a channel on your right or starboard side when you’re returning to port. That means you can keep red things on your right to get home or return. Of course, some areas have a different lateral marking system. So be sure to check out any navigation rules in areas you’re unfamiliar with.

Other markers and buoys tell you about dangerous areas, obstructions, and much more. Always check them out.

Rob: Beyond common hazards, some waterways have specific hazards that could be fatal. Here are a few things to look out for.

First, this is a low-head dam. While it might look gentle, it’s extremely dangerous. Kayakers can get caught in the powerful recirculating wave created from it, and it’s hard to get out.

Other hazards on the river include undercut rocks, which can suck you in but not let you out; obstructions in the water, like fences, low power lines, or downed trees, that can trap your boat or hold you underwater. And remember, when the water is high, sometimes rivers that you’re use to running have new hazards. Also, the power of the river is always dangerous. Be cautious of rapids, waterfalls, strong currents, and other powerful hydraulics caused by the moving water.

On the coast, you have to deal with tides, rip currents, and powerful waves. And all of these are something you should be aware of and tackle only when you have proper experience.

Haley: Paddling should be fun. So stay safe, so you can enjoy it for a lifetime.

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