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Most modern canoes and kayaks will not sink when swamped unless they sustain severe hull damage. Even if you cannot drain your boat, you usually can hold onto it for support.

Capsized boat

If you capsize or swamp, or if you fall overboard and can’t get back in:

  • Stay with the paddlecraft if possible.
  • If you made the mistake of not wearing a life jacket, find one and put it on. If you can’t put it on, hold onto it. Have your passengers do the same.
  • Take a head count.
  • Signal for help.
  • If your paddlecraft is still floating, try to reboard or climb onto it. Get as much of your body out of the cold water as possible. You lose body heat and energy by treading water, so try to use the boat or board for support.
  • If you are close to shore, hold onto the paddlecraft with one hand and use the other to sidestroke toward shore.
  • If your paddlecraft sinks or floats away, don’t panic. Look for other items in the water (coolers, dry bags, paddles, etc.) to help support you.