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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- In your river group, stay between the lead and sweep boats and
keep the boat behind you in sight!