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Canoe and Kayak Safety

Unfortunately, roughly 100 people will die in boating accidents every year, and many more individuals will be severely injured. Thankfully, however, most boating deaths and injuries can be avoided by following simple safety tips.

Canoes and kayaks are referred to as “human-powered water crafts,” in British Columbia, which means that the requirements to operate these vessels are significantly less than boats with motors. Nonetheless, some of the same safety requirements should be used to ensure that everyone stays safe while they are having fun.

Required Safety Gear for Canoes

Transport Canada requires that you have specific safety gear, but certain types of canoeing will require additional safety equipment as well. The basic required safety gear includes:

  • An approved personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket for everyone on the craft
  • A bailing device (such as a bucket or other item that can be used to bail water from the canoe)
  • A sound-making device (many PFDs are equipped with whistles)
  • A minimum 15-metre buoyant heaving line (such as a rope with a throw bag on it)
  • A light, if you are canoeing at night, dawn, or dusk

You should have all of these items stored in a place that you can access quickly in the event of an emergency. Although it is not required, it is always a good idea to wear your PFD or life jacket while you canoe.

Recommended Safety Gear for Canoeing

Although the law does not oblige these items, the Recreational Canoeing Association of British Columbia recommends the following safety equipment as well.

  • A complete spare change of clothing and other essential items in a waterproof container
  • Floating polypropylene ropes (painters) at each end of the canoe (for lining around rapids, securing the boat, and for rescues)
  • A spare paddle
  • Additional river gear, depending on the type of canoeing you are doing (helmet, river rescue gear, extra flotation devices, )

Essential Safety Gear for Kayaks

Kayaks can be a great way to get exercise and enjoy nature. However, they can also be dangerous as well. Kayaks are subject to the rules found in the Small Vessel Regulations. As such, you should be sure to have the following required safety items:

  • A spray skirt
  • A paddle bladder or float (and be sure to practice how to use it!)
  • A spare paddle (a two-part paddle works great)
  • A chart or topographical map that can be attached to the kayak
  • A graph ruler or spare compass
  • A first aid kit

Other safety items, such as waterproof barrels, binoculars, a VHF radio, and radar reflectors may also be a good idea as well.

Safety Tips for Kayaks

Because kayaks are human-powered vessels, there is no competency requirement to use a kayak. Nonetheless, having some training and knowledge of kayak safety is extremely important to have before you hit the water. Use the following tips to get you started.

  • Be sure that your kayak is a minimum of four metres to ensure that it can handle swells and track better.
  • Chose a kayak that is suited for how you are going to use it. For example, polyethylene kayaks provide better impact resistance but have a low stiffness rating. Composite materials, like fiberglass, carbon fibre, and Kevlar, provide decent impact resistance and higher stiffness.
  • Be sure to choose a kayak that has plenty of watertight flotation compartments to increase buoyancy and allow you enough room to store safety gear and other necessities.
  • Choose a wider kayak to increase stability.

Getting Legal Help

In some situations, a canoe or kayak accident can result in legal liability. Call 1-800-567-HURT to find out more about how our team at Diamond and Diamond can help you.


What Should You Not Do While Kayaking?

Kayaking can be a fun and rewarding activity, as long as you stay safe. Several things can make your kayaking significantly riskier, though. First of all, you should dress according to the situation. Layered, waterproof, warm clothing that can prevent hypothermia is ideal.

Which Is More Comfortable Canoe or Kayak?

Canoes and kayaks are both human-powered water crafts. They serve very similar purposes. However, there are key differences between a canoe and a kayak in terms of comfort. Canoes are larger, which makes them more stable. They’re also bulkier, and harder to paddle, often requiring a companion. They have an open deck, which won’t keep you dry. Getting in and out of a canoe is easier than a kayak. Kayaks are smaller and sleeker, and easier to maneuver. They can be much more comfortable to handle, especially solo. Their closed-off design keeps you dry, but is harder to enter.

What to Do If You Capsize in a Kayak?

If your kayak capsizes, first of all, don’t panic. Keep calm, and perform a “wet exit”. First, lean forward in the kayak. Use your hand to trace the surface of the kayak cockpit. You’ll run into the grab loop. Pull it with force to release yourself. Next, place both hands at each side of the cockpit. Push hard against the kayak, and you’ll quickly slide out of the craft. The entire process takes a matter of seconds, but it’s best you familiarize yourself with it on dry land. After exiting, let your flotation device do its work.

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