Canoe and Kayak Safety Tips to Stay Safe on the Water - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers
  • Monday, 24 July 2017

Canoe and Kayak Safety Tips to Stay Safe on the Water

#AskZevBergman

Canada offers visitors and residents countless lakes, rivers, oceans and other waterways to explore and enjoy. Ontario alone has more than half a million lakes, so it should come as no surprise that canoeing and kayaking are popular activities. Whether you own a canoe or kayak or rent for a day trip from one of the many outfitters, there are a few safety tips you should know to ensure your day on the water is a safe one.

Dangers you could face in a canoe or kayak

It might be a bright, sunny day with mild temperatures and a calm breeze when you set out on your journey, but weather conditionscan deteriorate very quickly. A few of the things to keep in mind as far as weather and your environment include the following:

  • Know your surroundings: A map is essential when venturing out on the water. Knowing the shoreline or coastline can come in handy when you need to beach or launch your canoe or kayak.
  • Water temperatures: Flipping a canoe or kayak in water between 8 and 15 degrees Celsius might be uncomfortable in which to swim, but temperatures below 8 ºC can lead to hypothermia and be life threatening.
  • Wind and weather: Check weather forecasts prior to starting out and be aware of changes, such as strong winds and storm clouds, which could warrant returning to the safety of shore.
  • Tides and currents: Whether on a lake, river or venturing into the ocean, be aware of the currents and tides. Paddling against the tide or the current can quickly lead to fatigue.
  • Other vessels: The low profile of a canoe or a kayak can make them difficult to see by other boaters. Have an air horn or whistle to use as a signaling device and, if operating after dusk, have navigation light onboard to increase your visibility to other vessels.

It is also a good idea to have a VHF radio or scanner that broadcasts marine weather forecasts and updates.

Follow government regulations for required safety equipment

Small vessels, including canoes and kayaks, up to 6 metres in length must have the following safety equipment onboard:

  • One life jacket or personal flotation device for each person
  • 15 metre long buoyant throwline
  • Paddle
  • Bailer or manual bilge pump 
  • Whistle, air horn or other audible signaling device
  • Navigation lights or a watertight flashlight when operating after dusk

Although it is not a legal requirement, having an extra paddle and keeping it secured in a readily accessible place is a good idea in case you lose your primary one. There are collapsible paddles that take up less space than a regular one. You might also consider equipping your canoe or kayak with signal flares that can be used to signal other vessels or aircraft if you are in trouble. Six of them are required if your canoe or kayak exceeds 6 metres.

Planning ahead promotes water safety

Make sure you know how to handle your watercraft. Practice before heading out onto the waterways. If you are renting, make certain your outfitter takes the time to review handling your canoe or kayak under normal and emergency conditions.

Finally, before setting out on the water, know where you are going and the time you expect to return. Leave a copy of your itinerarywith a friend or someone staying behind and instruct them to contact the coast guard or other agency if you do not return by your expected time.

Getting help for canoe and kayak accidents

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond are there to help if you or a loved one is injured while kayaking or canoeing. They have experience obtaining compensation for accident victims by handling claims against the responsible parties. Contact our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now about your claim. Consultations are free, and we have offices located throughout Ontario.

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