What Habits Do You Always Strive to Do When Paddling

I think we’ve covered equipment in the past. I want to cover behaviors. From when you leave the house to when you get back. What habits do you try to establish every time you go out.

setting out
Load gear first in car. Harder to put gear (especially paddles) in a hatchback with the boat on top.
I always try to put straps up before boat. Wrap straps around the both the cross bars and outer factory rail. Sometimes folks desire to help prevents this. If just one boat, it always goes on passenger side. Easier for me to see it out the sun roof.
Check boat by pushing on it to see if it is loose on rack before putting key in ignition and make sure I have phone, wallet and extra key to car. Somehow I seem to forget phone a good bit.
Double check to see that helmet (ww), pfd, sprayskirt, and paddle are in car before leaving driveway.

At the river
Hide key in same spot on vehicle.
Launch from the side of the launching zone to leave room for others to launch.
Make sure that grab loop is out and run my hands around the cockpit rim to make sure I have a good seal before launching.
Double check to make sure all buckles are buckled on my pfd.
pop skirt a 2nd time and adjust backband latches, double check grab loop.
Do a few warm up strokes, stretches.

on a trip
take frequent glances at who is ahead and behind me
leave or create space between other boats
eddy out below trouble spots and bigger rapids
pop skirt and drink plenty of water, check grab loop again
at some point I ask others how they’re doin’, need to stop? want a break?

at the takeout
I always try to accept help if it is offered- loading and carrying boats
I provide cold drinks while shuttle is being run- you make a lot of friends this way

back at home
hang wet stuff on clothes line located near car (often the boat gets left on car) but much of the time the throw rope, pin kit, first aid kit are left in boat if I’m boating again in the next couple of days


Logistics tend to be similar on every trip. .
The wild card for me is always the people that come along. I try to match trips with paddling ability. I try to find people that can get along together.
It is important to share responsibilities liking meals prep and clean up.
Lay over days are important.
Looking at the history, plants and wildlife adds a lot of interest to trips.
After 50 years of leading trips there have been some that were perfect. There have been a few that lead to lost friendships. I have lost two friends on canoe trips because they could not buy into the team concept. They were not safe. I cannot compromise on safety.


My habits are still forming as this is our first season with paddle boats.

One of the first habits I formed and in part learned here and there on this forum is all the little bits of gear required need a simple way of being stored and brought out for each outing. I had a bunch of Army surplus rubberized laundry bags (kind of look like a duffel bag) I paid 3 bucks each for. When dry I put our PFDs into one and it gets tied shut and sit on a shelf. In another go our 2 piece paddles and a small single blade I use as a spare or narrow passage paddle and also my 2 piece aluminum poling pole, all the shafts stick out so I know what’s in the bag and they are all tied together. My boat fishing gear is all in one place along with my anchor and lines all in a 3# plastic coffee can. All the straps are separated by boat and are right there along with my 2 extension cross bars and my hatchback tube that holds two loops and the hood loops stay under the hood. We have two coolers a large one and a smaller one that we may use one or both depending on where we are going. They both sit on the shelf ready to go and I take them in the house the night before to get filled. Then there is the kayak dolly I use for the canoe. Also the lifter ladders I use to save my back loading and unloading the canoe.

The plan is we park where we can unload the boats putting the canoe on the dolly and then filling the canoe with coolers and gear and then put the rec-kayak on top of the canoe. All the straps stay looped around the rack and closed in the back door. Sometimes we then shuttle the car to the end or sometimes if a lake we just lock the car. We only make one trip from the car to the water and put in quick. We see people all the time blocking the ramp and running back and forth to the car with stuff. We are in the water paddling in just a minute or so and the dolly folds up and comes with us in the canoe.

The river here is mostly slow floaters so we would rather paddle past others than try and stay behind.

We often get offers to help load or unload and I will often help others if they need help I have found with my DIY loader it works better alone so I tell people I got it. They often stand and watch and say yes you do. If I didn’t have it and did require help that’s when no one would be around.

With winter coming I’m thinking about how I want to store both boats overhead in the garage.

Along with knowing where everything is and keeping all that straight the other routine we have learned is how to work together on the water without getting in each others way. The time to be learning an assisted rescue is not when it happens. We have taken time to learn a lot of team skills this summer. :canoe:

I find breathing useful.


I always check the weather before loading the gear into the car.

I always reset my GPS trip data to zero it.

At the end of the trip, I always try to remember to record the trip data from the GPS, shortly after landing.

A new thing I just started doing when back home after the trip is bringing a bucket of water into the garage where we keep the kayaks, and putting all the paddles we had on the water into the bucket, ferrules in the water, along with my contact tow line and the straps/buckles of my belt tow line. Salt apparently was beginning to make assembling the paddles and buckling the belt towline more and more difficult, as well as making the contact tow line stiff. By soaking for a half or more (sometimes I forget until the next morning, smile) this seems to have been corrected.

Once on the water: forward and rear stretching, stationary 360 turn in both directions before getting very far from the launch, reminding myself to use the paddling box to ensure torso rotation vice arm paddling, practice a low brace on each side once moving. Once warmed up a few minutes: roll on both sides.

Come back! Especially without the CG or not at all.

I may accept help getting my boat on or off the car but I never accept help tying it down. Likewise, unless asked by another paddler for help tying theirs down I don’t volunteer.

I make certain that my footbraces are adjusted properly and secured in place before launching and unless launching in surf I ensure that my skeg is clear before leaving the beach.

Whenever preparing to land I check that my skeg is up and if paddling with others I will announce “Skeg Up”.

Skeg up! a great idea.

I pretty much do the same routine for loading and unloading the kayak and gear every time, so that I know once I have gone through all of the steps that I have everything that I need. I can do it half asleep and only twice in the last couple of years have I forgotten something - left my phone at home once, and forgot my paddle once, but that was because I was out of my routine at home as I was in the middle of moving.

Always try to turn around and look back at the launch point from a few hundred yards out. Find a landmark that will be easy to see. Amazing how hard it can be to find the ramp or the car sometimes!

Check the weather frequently, and then check it again. Always be ready to bail if needed.

Wash, dry and cover the kayak, and wash, dry and put away all gear. 99% of the time I do this immediately when I get back, unless there are extenuating circumstances (after dark, raining, using the kayak the next day).

Turn on Runtastic/Strava to record mileage. Turn off at the end of the paddle (took me a while to get this one).

A lot of good stuff especially about loading and unloading. One thing I’d add is that I often travel far enough that I have to stop before getting to the put-in. Always recheck the load for security at all stops.

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Personal gear is accounted for by visualizing each area of the boat to consider items in those locations: - Front Deck: compass, chart sleeve with chart, paper for notes and pen, GPS with mount and check battery level while recording tide table on notepad in the chart sleeve.

  • Behind Seat: phone and keys go in the Pelican case that gets clipped to the left seat strap, two 2 liter water bottles behind the seat.
  • Personal Gear: PDF hold a VHF that’s on the charger. A paddle would be sitting across the cockpit. I apply sun screen, then lip balm, lanyard
    goes on Polaroid prescription sun glasses, and finally hat.
    Same isualization at launch process when I get to launch. Each piece of gear is critical to checklist. A whistle is a legal requirement and it stays on the PDS. Radio is important for NOAA weather. I associate it with a PDF check. The PDF is part of the checklist.

I always personally account for my gear and the gear for any boats I transport. The exception is if I ask another person directly to get some item and ask them to show it to me.

I keep tie downs and flags in the truck. I refuse any help and ignore questions while I personally tie down or putting flags on. Unless I hand the flag to a person and ask them to attach it.

Also wrap every tie down as I remove it and place on the passenger side front floor.

Off the water, I record stats. Shut off/,remove electronics; GPS and Pelican case attach to vest. Remove all gear. Break down paddle, after I open truck windows so keys don’t get locked inside, then stow gear. Return to boat with sponge to dry inside, open hatches and stuff lids in hold to ventilate.

I personally remove boats and carry to storage, before wrapping tie downs. I’ve untied and stowed ropes for all boats and almost pulled away with an untried boat still on a ladder rack, no distraction or help before I’m done. I direct anyone who wants to help, to handle individual tasks, otherwise. They’ll carry a handful of $450 paddles and an armfull of waterbottles and PDFs. The things that hit the ground along the way are the paddles.

When running a shuttle, dropping cars at the take out, ALWAYS go down to the landing and look it over. Note landmarks and combinations of landmarks on both shores. This is especially true if the parking is not in sight of the river. YOU need to be able to recognize the landing from the water. Don’t trust a trip leader for this. Everyone needs to know what the landing looks like in case the group gets strung out on the water or conditions change. On a couple occasions in the past, in the rush to get the shuttle run and get back to the put in, I’ve skipped this in my desire not to hold folks up. And on one occasion we missed a landing

It happened because the trip leader, who knew the landing well and had used it a few weeks before, had not expected a dense stand of wild rice to have sprung up in the meantime which completely obscured the view of the take-out from the water. An understandable error, but an error nevertheless. Cost us a few extra miles and we barely got in before dark. A surprise storm could have made a real mess of it… It could have been worse and everyone in the group was in sight of one another. But if we’d all just taken a few extra minutes to see what the landing looked like on that day it wouldn’t have happened.

PS: And always pick up as much trash found along the route and at landings as you can carry… well, don’t risk your life going into a dangerous strainer after a beer can, but otherwise its a very good habit to get into. And get in the habit of clearing landing ramps quickly. Best to be a good citizen of a watershed.

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On loading a boat, as soon as you get it on the car get at least on strap on it. It’s easy to have a boat blow off a roof rack on a windy day. Once you start to strap a boat down, never allow your self to become distracted. Finish the job. I’ve seen too many cases where someone was in the middle of fastening down their boat and then stopped when someone asked them to help get their boat on a car. When done with that they forgot to complete fastening down their boat with disastrous consequences.


After surviving cancer three times my biggest habit now is enjoy the trip.


Two different outlooks.

One is to catch fish with flies I designed.

The other is technique and control.

Low water I fish, when it goes over the bank during the rainy season I have been getting back in a fast boat. I have missed that and need to gain control of it.

I strive to remember to put my paddle in the car when leaving the house. Getting old is no joke. ( I keep a PFD in my car all of the time if needed to help with a rescue, so that’s less of an issue.)

I keep all my paddling gear in the truck all the time. You never know when a boat may show up.

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That makes perfect sense.

As I two time survivor myself, I felt that. It’s a habit we all need to learn cancer survivor or not, slow down and enjoy the trip.

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