Pre-Paddle Check List
A pre-paddle checklist for safety and comfort With more and more kayakers venturing out from home base to paddle, there are some things we must always consider before launching. This is my checklist for each and every paddling session with some remarks thrown in to convince you to make, and then follow your own checklist. You simply don't want to risk being in a tough spot with broken gear or numb body parts. This list is for flatwater or touring kayaking.
Check your car rack
and all it's components. A guy I knew dropped his entire roof rack and three new kayaks off his roof at 65 mph. Thankfully no one was hurt which is a major concern when putting anything on your roof. Pay particular attention to the mechanisms that holds the rack to the car. Next, make sure your tie-down straps are in top-notch shape.
Life Jacket (PFD.)
No matter how good a swimmer you are, how shallow the water, or how hot the day, you wear it. Get one that fits you well and it will get to the point where you feel naked and exposed without it on.
Look your paddle over carefully. If it is a 2-piece paddle, inspect the joint insertion points. They can loosen and crack. Usually it is from sitting on them to exit your boat. Check out each blade for chips and cracks and repair or replace.
Whistle on leash of PFD.
These marine whistles are loud and can be heard great distances, even under water. There is no "pea" in them so they are foolproof. I once kept from being run over by a power boat by using mine and found that even with the engine noise, the knucklehead could hear me.
Paddle Float & bilge Pump.
If you capsize, you'll have to have these stowed under your deck lines in order to re-enter your kayak. And of course know how to use them to aid in getting into the kayak.
This is 40-60 foot of rope stuffed into a bag that makes it easy to hold one end, throw the bag to someone, and have the rope spool out in a straight line. You can use these for towing, lashing, re-entry, securing your boat to shore and of course for bringing in a capsized paddler.
Each of us has a limit of endurance that once passed, can make things unpleasant if we are forced to go further. I set my watch when I leave shore and I know exactly when my turn around point should be, time-wise, to assure that I have enough horsepower to get back. Don't forget to note which way the wind is blowing. If it is at your back to start, move your turn around time up to compensate for the extra effort it will take to paddle into it coming back.
Dry Bag with Dry Clothes.
Beyond any doubt, the biggest risk of paddling is hypothermia. Cold water immersion can steal body temperature faster than you'd ever believe. I always have some spare items to put on even if the air temp is quite warm. The lake may not be and that is what counts. A thick fleece hat is great and gloves and torso warming clothing is preferred.
Water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Paddling is curiously deceptive in that you may not feel like drinking like you do cycling or hiking. But the strain on the large muscles is there nonetheless and staying hydrated fends off cramps and fatigue.
Hat, Visor and Sunglasses.
The sun can do your eyes and skin in quickly on the water. Even hazy days can cause the Clint Eastwood squint to take over your face. Do this long enough and you'll get as grouchy as Dirty Harry. Don't forget to use a leash on your glasses! Hats have to be selected for coverage, but also to stay on if it is breezy. And yeah, the dorky ones with floppy brims and chin- straps do the best job.
That's the short, Never Leave Shore list I use. For all day trips and exploring remote areas, there are of course a host of other things I bring like first aid kits, maps, signaling devices. But 85% of my paddling is quick, two-hour escapes and I don't want to waste any of it being uncomfortable or terrified.