5 ways to stay safe on a family canoe trip this Summer
Few things beat a paddle down the river with the family on those sweltering summer days. As an activity that fosters teamwork, effective communication, and the acquisition of many outdoor skills, it is no surprise that sections of families from all over the world head to rivers once the school finished. That said, nothing comes before safety, and river safety comes with its own wave of nuances. Provided the man in the back (i.e. the person sitting in the back and taking on the role of captain) has the skills to canoe downstream, here are 5 tips for staying safe on the river this summer.
1. Know the river, know your route
Before anything else, it is imperative that you know the river. It means knowing where your entrance and exits are, if there is white water and if there is, exactly how it should be sailed, being aware of what is happening and what needs special attention. It is so important that there are no blind spots on the river – sections where you don’t know what is happening and how the water is moving. Even when you are familiar with the way the river flows, you should also be aware of all the variable factors that can affect and change the way the river flows. Severe weather in the nearby mountains could produce surges and sudden changes in hydraulics, making the river faster and the current stronger. Recent storms in the area could also bring down trees across the river, creating deadly sweepers. It is essential to have a comprehensive knowledge of current weather conditions in the region as well as recent weather conditions.
2. Check the suitability of the vessel
Once the route has been determined, it is important to consider the suitability of your proposed vessel. It is not uncommon to see inflatables on rivers that must be traversed by canoes made of fiberglass, plastic or wood, and invariably end up needing help. A canoe with a keel is well suited for paddling in flat water – as you would on a lake – but not ideal for downhill as it is less maneuverable and more likely to tip over. When renting or purchasing a canoe, be sure to check that it is suitable for river runs, if that is your intention.
3. Make sure everyone is wearing a properly fitted life jacket.
Before putting a toe in the canoe, make sure everyone has a properly fitted life jacket. Regardless of swimmer’s level or comfort with the water, everyone should be in a life jacket. At least one person must have a throwing bag – and be trained in its use – as well as a whistle and knife strapped to their life jacket. For children, it is imperative that it is not too tall and has a strap between the legs that makes the life jacket impossible to slip over their head. If a canoe unexpectedly turns over, it can be scary for everyone, and knowing that your little ones will remain visible on the surface and that a strong current will not pull their jackets over their heads is extremely reassuring. Check children’s life vests, then check them again.
4. Pack properly
Make sure you pack everything you know you’ll need and what you hope you won’t need. Especially if the excursion lasts more than a few hours, it is really important to cover all eventualities. Some basics would include plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, sun hats, a child rescuer, a way to communicate with people outside your family / group, extra rope, dry clothes, a dry towel and dry bag to put these items Many canoes will also have a place to tie the dry bag, so you don’t have to worry about it inadvertently floating. Rapid weather conditions – especially in mountainous areas – or unexpected reversals are ways to get wet and cool quickly, and if you’re in the wilderness far from your exit point, it’s important to have a way to warm you up.
5. Take frequent breaks
Take frequent breaks and opportunities to play and refuel. A fun activity after all, it’s good to take a break or two, cool off in a whirlpool or section without a strong current, cliff jumping, and refuel with food and drink. After about an hour, the novelty of paddling will wear off for the kids, so breaking up the day with fun breaks is a great way to keep them excited about paddling. Plus, drinking plenty of water is a must in hot weather, and it’s important to eat enough to stay energized and focused. As a traveling adult, it’s easy to neglect your own needs – skipping a meal or two – in favor of children’s safety, food and watering, only to find later that you are desperately short of. energy and strength. Stop, rest, eat, drink and play.
No matter what corner of the world you find yourself in this summer, stay safe on rivers, but also grab the opportunities for family fun outdoors.
Nadine Robb is owner and instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school in Hakuba, Japan.
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