Articles about safe paddling.

Kayak Safety Tips

by Paula Huber

From my 40 years’ experience as a cold water scuba diving instructor, cold water scuba diver and zodiac hard hull dive boat operator I have learned many lessons about safety in and on the water. These lessons are transferable to kayaking.


Be mentally and physically prepared for your paddle day. We all have stressors in our lives. A day on the water should challenge and refresh us not create anxiety, tension, and frustration that may put our safety and that of others at risk. If that little voice inside of you says don’t do it then don’t. There is always another time to paddle. You and your paddle companions should respect each other and be able to openly and freely discuss the day’s paddle without fear of ostracism. In a group situation all members’ abilities, mental and physical, need to be respected. A safe compromise can always be achieved before leaving shore. Have a plan B. Mentally rehearse worst case scenarios and how you intend to react to them. Plan B can also include spending the day ashore to savour your surroundings. Maintain your equipment. Do a last minute check of your kayak and its equipment before entering it and leaving shore.


Educate yourself to not only perform paddle skills but also to respect and understand the cold water environment. In our paddle environment high winds will often subside or decrease substantially at 12 noon or early evening. Listen to marine weather reports and plan your paddle accordingly. For instance, paddle into the wind outbound and with the wind inbound. A shore day can turn out to be very enjoyable, what’s the rush? Dress for the water temperature and conditions. Water conducts heat 25 times faster from our bodies than does air. Practice re-entry into your kayak to reduce submersion time in the water.


Remember, a leak in your dry suit will allow it to fill with water to rapidly chill you and impair your mobility to get back into your kayak. A wet suit will ALWAYS provide thermal protection upon submersion in cold water and you will retain your mobility to facilitate re-entry into your kayak. Synthetics are great, but wool will keep you warm even when wet. Your body heat will dry it from the inside out. Consider wool clothing for both hot and cold paddle conditions.


Learn to use navigation aids such as compass, GPS, navigation/topographic charts. Always take and know how to use back up navigation devices. Practice your skills on each paddle and carry spare batteries if relying on electronics.


This is separate from trip gear. It is for emergency use. Even on short day trips I carry extra clothing, food, water in case I get stranded somewhere. Contents can be put into a dry bag and stored inside the cockpit just past the foot pedals if there is room. This is what I carry in my panic pack- wool socks, toque, mitts/gloves, neck warmer, foil blanket/bivy sack, large plastic garbage bag/small tarp, matches/ lighter, dryer fluff to start fire with, metal cook pot/mug, spoon, rain/warm outer jacket, wool pants, top, wool sweater, dry food for one to two days. And lastly, remember Murphy’s Law – If anything can go wrong it will.

Cold Water Paddling

by Ralph Gardave

You may be thinking that this article has little relevance to you as you are not one of those “crazy” people who paddle in winter weather conditions. If you missed my last article in Qayaq you may wish to read it, as it will bring relevance to this one. The Peel Marine Unit considers any rescue in Lake Ontario to be a “Cold Water Rescue” when the surface temperatures are 20° C or colder. For Lake Ontario that usually means any month other than July, August and September. Most of us paddle in waters farther north and therefore the window of time is even shorter. Continue reading

Rescue Stirrup

by Ralph Gardave

The rescue stirrup is a versatile aid to both solo and assisted rescues that I don’t see in many paddlers’ boats. It may just be that people are unaware of this piece of equipment. On the other hand, many paddlers who have solid rescue and/or rolling skills may simply feel that we don’t need it as they have several methods to get back into their boat should a mishap occur. Regardless of which category you fall into reading this article may have you considering a rescue stirrup. Continue reading

On-water Group Management and Communication

by Ralph Gardave
(GLSKA Trip Committee Chair)
As the Trip Committee Coordinator I get feedback from trip leaders regarding The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of their trip leading experiences. The most frequent concern I hear about is challenges in managing the group on the water. To me the art of group management on the water breaks down into three key areas: (1) The Leader, (2) The Group itself, and (3) The Sweep. Continue reading

A Chilling Paddle?

Andrew Lawrence

A few brave souls decided to bring in the 2009 paddling season by being on the water as January 1st rolled in. I was not among them. The thought of paddling in icy waters did not appeal to me at the time. However, I did join a trip on the weekend of April 24-26. This trip, led by Gerry Croney, involved two days of kayaking and camping at Honeymoon Bay at the north end of Beausoleil Island. Continue reading

Visual Distress Signals

by Wayne Spivak

In many coastal communities, lights in the sky after dusk are a rare sight. In other areas of the country, they are commonplace. But streaking lights always make people look twice. With the exception of the 1st of July or 24th of May, these streaking or arcing lights at night should make you sit up and take notice. They are probably a Visual Distress Signal (VDS), commonly referred to as an Aerial Flare.
Continue reading

Dealing With Boat Traffic

by Bert Millar

Probably most of us would prefer to do our paddling in quiet, pristine areas, listening to the sounds of the wind, water and wildlife, free from the stress and danger of our modern and over-mechanised world. Sometimes we do get a chance to escape to these peaceful and remote wilderness regions, a chance to recharge our spiritual batteries and experience the tranquility that we need to think, meditate and relax. But the bulk of our kayaking is done in southern Ontario where we must share the waterways with thousands of other boaters. Much consideration is given to safety in respect to weather, accidental capsizes, hypothermia, rescues, etc., and rightfully so but I have observed that many paddlers don’t give too much thought to avoiding collisions with powerboats, so I would like to serve you a small portion of food for thought in this regard. Continue reading

Sea Kayaking – The Who, What, Where, Why, When and How of the Sport

by Wendy Killoran


Sea kayaking is a water sport that opens up a lifetime of endless possibilities of exploration and recreation. A sea kayak, life jacket, double bladed paddle and spray skirt are the bare essentials needed to be able to paddle as well as feeling comfortable on the water. Sea kayaking is an enchanting method of exploring one’s surroundings, giving access to inaccessible shoreline. It is a great way to occupy oneself, spending quality time with friends and family. Continue reading