Canoeing and kayaking in New England is one of the best ways to enjoy our diverse environment. Following a few simple precautions on the water will ensure that you are doing your utmost to paddle safely.

One of the major benefits of paddling with a group is safety. NHAMC Paddlers are very safety conscious. 

  • Wear your PFD (personal floatation device or "life vest"). It's not only the law in all six New England states, it's also smart. Wear it whenever you're in water over waist-height, even on calm flatwater, when scouting, and when participating in rescue/recovery.
  • Bring along an extra paddle. Picture this - you're on a river and you drop your paddle. How are you going to get to the riverbank?
  • Equip your canoe with painters (bow and stern lines): In case you fall out of your boat, these are essential for you or others to get the boat to shore.
  • Bring food and water. Paddling trips can last hours. Bring sandwiches and snacks in a cheap cooler, in case of a tipover. Remember to include plenty to drink, but NO ALCOHOL. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect, and the combined effect of drinking; the hot sun and the work of paddling are stressful, which can wreak havoc on your body.
  • In case of a tipover, don't panic! Your primary concern is to rescue yourself. Boats, gear, wallets, cell phones, and car keys can be replaced. Only retrieve your boat and gear if it can be done safely.
  • If you paddle frequently, you will inevitably 'go for a swim'. Learn how to safely deal with this situation by taking a paddling class with NHAMC Paddlers or another established paddling organization. Practice on flatwater. Becoming proficient at self-rescue should be every paddler's goal.
  • Stay away from downed trees (sweepers and strainers). Give them a wide berth. Downed trees can entangle you and hold you under water.
  • Keep clear of old bridge piers. These may hide rebar or other dangerous debris.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. Cotton absorbs water. Even in mild weather, wet cotton will quickly wick heat out of your body. Wear nylon, synthetics, wool, or other non-absorbent fibers. Bring dry clothes and a towel, sealed in a watertight plastic bag. If you tip over, you'll need to change - or risk hypothermia.
  • Don't paddle after dusk, unless you have approved running lights. A collision with a motorboat can be deadly.
  • If a thunder, lightning, or a windy squall threatens, get to the safety of the shore immediately! On a lake are large river, you are a prime target for lightning. Winds on lakes can whip up dangerous waves.
  • If going into the wilderness, tell people your exact plans, tentative schedule, and planned route with maps (or leave the information in your car). Should you become injured, this will give search personnel a chance of finding you quickly.
  • Both you and your boat should be outfitted so that there is nothing to get tangled or hooked. Your person should be outfitted to minimize the possibility of getting snagged, should you go through a strainer.
  • In your river group, stay between the lead and sweep boats and keep the boat behind you in sight! 


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