I’ve rented canoes and kayaks throughout Ontario, at Ontario Parks’ campgrounds. I’ve also had my own canoe for many years. Here are some safety tips that may be useful to those of you who are new to canoeing or kayaking and are planning on exploring the waters this summer:
Be Responsible: Statistics indicate that most canoeists who drown are young to middle-aged males who were not very skilled at canoeing, were not wearing life jackets, and were poor swimmers. Paddle near the shoreline if you are worried about tipping the canoe, and instruct everyone to sit in the middle of the canoe at all times. Keep your footing and weight in the middle when stepping in or out of the canoe.
Calm Waters: Ontario lakes and rivers tend to be the calmest in the early morning or early evening, based on my experience. These are the most enjoyable times for paddling.
Children: Watch young children closely to ensure that they do not tip the canoe. Children will be tempted to lean over the side of the canoe and drag their hands in the water to cool them or grab water lilies and other floating vegetation and debris. Instruct them not to do this, as this can make the canoe tipsy. When our children were younger, we instructed them to always sit in the middle of the canoe to maintain balance. Do not take any children canoeing who are too young to wear a life jacket or have inadequate swimming experience.
Trail Markers: Most backcountry canoe routes have trail markers at the designated portaging points between lakes. Always look for trail markers to help you pinpoint where you need to carry the canoe and gear. The trail markers should tie into the portaging points that are identified on your map. If no markers can be found, then pick landmarks such as inlets or islands along the lake or river that you can easily spot on your map. This will help you to chart your whereabouts on the map.
Word of Mouth: Talk to others you meet along the water routes, as they can usually provide you with significant information on where to see beautiful views, good places to stop for lunch, or whether they encountered difficult or swampy canoeing conditions. They may even be able to help you if you are lost.
Do you have any safety tips for canoeing and kayaking that you want to share with all of us? Please forward your comments and we will publish them for all to see. Thank you!