Planning your float trip

When getting ready to schedule your next float trip, be sure to use the following safety guidelines to help ensure a safe and enjoyable excursion:

Pre-Trip Planning

• Know the waters to be paddled. River and coastal guide books and topographic maps are valuable references in trip planning. Plan alternate routes.

• Set-up a shuttle. Calculate the distance and time. Consider stops and a lunch break, along with put-in and take-out locations

• Equipment — What you take with you on a trip is all that you have to survive and rescue yourself. This includes water, food, maps and charts, rescue equipment and extra clothes.

• File a float plan with someone who will notify others if you don’t return on time.

• Paddle within your, and your group’s, abilities and limits.

On Water Behavior and Etiquette

• Be a competent swimmer with the ability to handle oneself underwater, on moving water, and in surf or current.

• Have a properly fitted lifejacket (Personal Flotation Device – PFD), and WEAR IT!

• Keep the craft under control. Do not enter a rapid unless reasonably sure you can navigate it or swim the entire rapid in case you capsize.

• Keep a lookout for hazards and avoid them.

• Know your emotional and physical limitations.

• Group members need to constantly assess the behavior of others in their group.

• Respect the rights of anglers and land owners when paddling.

Know the Conditions For Flatwater

• Remember to watch for water and weather changes — beware of fog.

• Keep an eye out for other boat traffic.

• Pay attention to all safety warnings.

• Be sure you are visible.

For Whitewater and Rivers

• Stay on the inside of bends — beware of strainers! Strainers are fallen trees, bridge pilings, undercut rocks or anything else that allows the current to flow through it while holding you. Strainers are deadly.

• Walk around low-head dams.

• Watch for and avoid hydraulics (water recirculating back on itself).

• If in doubt, get out and scout!

For Coastal Areas

• Stay close to shore.

• As you travel away from shelter, make sure you have the necessary skills to travel back.

• Watch conditions for winds and fog.

• Understand wave height, wind speed (Beaufort Scale), fetch and how it will impact your travel.

• Stay aware of all boat traffic and traffic patterns.

• Learn re-entry techniques BEFORE you need them, know how to re-enter your boat and how to assist others back into their craft.

• Stay apprised of tidal currents and their affects on you and your boat.

• Watch for landing in surf or passing through the surf zone to shore.

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