If there's any doubt about proceeding safely, wait a while to see if conditions improve. Never paddle into questionable conditions simply to stay on schedule. Make sure your trip plans include extra time for rest days, non-paddling activities, and delays caused by inclement weather.
Once the decision to paddle has been made, the next step is to plan a specific itinerary for the day. This itinerary should reflect the water, weather and wind conditions, as well as the desires and goals of group members.
To make sure everyone is informed about the day's plans, hold a brief pre-paddle meeting each morning. If there are a number of experienced paddlers in your group, use the meeting to solicit input about the day's plans. If you're leading a less inexperienced group, use the meeting to explain the reasoning behind the day's plans.
Be sure to discuss the specifics of the upcoming route with everyone in the group. Everyone should know the location of the day's probable destination, the most likely rest stops and lunch spots along the way, and any hazards or attractions they may encounter.
NOTE: If you're going to be traveling far during the day, identify a rendezvous point somewhere near the middle of the day's travels where everyone can gather up in case the group gets divided.
The best way to ensure a happy, well-rested paddling group is to select a number of possible stopping points in addition to your primary destination. Rather than push hard all day, let the pace of the group and the conditions throughout the day determine where your next camp is pitched. Be careful—in popular paddling areas, campsites begin filling up early in the afternoon. Start looking early, or you may have to paddle a long way to find an open spot.
Once the day's itinerary has been mapped out and agreed upon, it's time to pack up camp and get ready to hit the water. Before your group shoves off, be sure to make the following safety checks:
Make sure that every paddler in your group has easy access to the equipment they'll need while paddling. This includes their:
Once everyone has the gear they'll need, turn your attention to their boats. Make sure that:
By T.D. Wood
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Last updated: 08/15/2012
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