This weekend I am heading out with my girlfriend and two others on a camping trip. I am a reasonably experienced paddler who is capable of self rescuing, rolling and have never found myself unsure in the safety sense.
The campground we are staying at offers kayaks to its campers, and they expressed interest in kayaking together. What advice can you give me about keeping my friends safe? I can easily outpace the 3 of them and move between them quickly if need be, should I hang back and keep an eye on all 3 of them? I’ve kayaked with other people with less experience but it was always 1 for 1, not sure how to keep an eye on an entire group.
Depends on their ages and the type of
water you will be on. Are there any health concerns? In addition to the normal safety issues, I would make sure they each have a whistle and know the code. There is a “whistle blower phobia” so make sure each one blows their whistle very loudly.
If not 100% sure of the group I would start by having some fun falling in and helping each other get back in any way you can. I would tell them to stay close enough to easily talk to each other (so no one bolts like a horse to the barn). You can be behind or along side but ideally don’t go more than several seconds without being able to see all of them. Let them know to speak up if there is any issue. Paddle into any wind or current so you can coast back if needed. When in doubt stay very close to shore. Have a tow rope. There’s a lot more to being VERY safe but this is a good start.
We are all mid to low 20s, all in reasonable shape, no health concerns generally speaking. This is lake water, fairly stable toward the shoreline, but it can quickly turn if the wind picks up closer to the middle. It is a large lake (Lake Nipissing in Ontario)
What they said
Plus, keep a wary weather eye. Have bail out points. Get on shore if in doubt. If your friends don’t have gear to dress for the water temperature, stay CLOSE to shore. Do at least an informal pre-launch safety brief so everyone knows what to expect. As the apparent leader or person they will look to for help if needed, practice CLAP:
Communication: Leader must be able to communicate with all members of the group
Line of sight: Keeping all group members with the leader’s sight & vice versa
Avoidance: It’s easier to avoid risk than extricate from it. As leader, practice continual risk assessment & avoidance
Position: The leader must be in a position to exercise all of the above.
You don’t have to military about it. Make requests or suggestions, rather than directing whenever possible. Be subtle but aware. Have fun & help everyone else to have fun while being safe.
don’t worry too much
I wouldn’t worry too much. The vast majority of people do just fine.
I definitely would have them wear their PFDs, if it isn’t already a requirement.
Falling out and getting back in could be fun, and does provide valuable lessons. But not everyone wants to get wet.
Where are you staying?
Looks like an interesting place to paddle on a map. Lots or craggy shoreline and islands not too far off shore. Lot’s of protected water.
Kayaking for beginners means 30 minutes max a a time. Then get out on a beach or island. Swim, have a picnic, explore. Repeat.
Stay behind, near shore
Also, try to get your GF up the curve in at least basic rescues…
is a good thing to work on. Stay close to shore, do some wet exits, entries, show them some braces, and just get wet for while. Demonstrate a few things you can do with the boat and a good forward stroke. In short, do a small class before you start “touring” and observe.
In truth, one doesn’t have to learn a lot initially to make dramatic improvements in safety. A few rescues, stroke, braces, and comfort on the water are more important than skills at this point and the best way to do that is to get wet, play around with the boats, and gain confidence.
I don’t know how much time you’ll be camping, but if it is more than a day or two, great strides can be made. Important things I learned was that a play session is much more educational than a tour on flat water where little to nothing goes wrong and that a good play session can be a lot of fun if approached with the right attitude.
Ok, sounds like it could be a nice day
on the water. PFD, Whistles, Safety lines fore and aft, boats have flotation and deck lines. Make sure they have everything tied-in. A few strokes you could teach them before shoving off would be Backstroke, High Brace, Low Brace and Ferry. There’s a fun drill called, “The Boat Boogy Wiggle” goes like this: Have them sit in the boat in the Ready Position, about knee deep water. They wiggle the boat side to side to get the feel of it, then do it with their eyes closed while you randomly give a good twist on the Bow. It builds the instinct to Brace. Another fun drill is the “Capistrano Flip”. Goes like this: Chest deep water, capsize, turn the boat upside down, go under and come up inside cockpit, grab the rim. Use the strength of your legs to begin lifting the boat out of the water, draining the compartments slowly. When it’s almost empty, giant flip the boat hull down and empty. Sure beats trying to DRAG a boat full of water to shore and then trying to empty it. Lots of fun, too!!
have them wear PFDs and practice wet exits in the warm summer water. Teach them a few strokes after the first hour or so. Have fun but impress upon them that canoeing and kayaking are team sports.