Do you sit on your pfd during shore breaks? Think again...foam breaks down over time and sitting on it acceelerates this. That means you won't float as well in the water, and you're more likely to submerge in waves or turbulence. When a pfd is starting to show signs of UV degredation and other wear and tear, it has most likely lost several pounds of it's standard 7-8kg (16-18lbs) of flotation. The label has a specially designed ink that fades at a specific rate. If it's significantly faded, the foam is significantly degraded!
Polypropylene, buoyant rescue ropes (usually in throw bags) can be quite different from one another.
- Diameter - thicker is better to hold on to
- Stronger - if you need to unpin a canoe you want a very strong rope
- Visibility - it should be easily visible (yellow is standard)
- Stretch - only high priced ropes such as Spectra are more 'static'. Pure polypropylene stretch like a rubber band under big loads
- Easy to throw - Smaller people have trouble throwing big throw bags
A properly outfitted river canoe is safer, more comfortable and won't get damaged as easily. Outfit it with:
- extra flotation securely attached
- grab loops on the ends
- thick, floating painters (end ropes)
- knee pads glued in
- lots of glued in anchor attachment points
- thigh straps (optional)
The flotation is your insurance policy. It keeps the canoe on the surface and much less likely to wrap around a boulder, plus it is easier to rescue.
Kneeling in the canoe, with your butt on the edge of the seat gives you 3 points of contact, a slightly lower center of gravity and much better control of the canoe. Glueing in kneeling pads makes this position much more appealing, especially when water or wind conditions suddenly change from calm to exciting.
PFDs (personal flotation device) only work if they are worn. Falling in cold water triggers a rapid breathing, shock or panic. This is not the time to start figuring out where your pfd is and try putting it on, which is very difficult in the water. Drowning statistics clearly show that wearing a pfd can save your life.
Canoeing is a wet sport - expect to get wet! Whether it is from rain, capsize or sweating, moisture in your clothing draws your body heat out quickly and dangerously. Changing into dry clothing is crucial. Carry it in a waterproof bag or container. Cotton absorbs lots of water and it will keep you wet and cold, and possibly hypothermic!
Make sure your critical gear such as clothing, sleeping bag, etc is waterproofed. There are many options for waterproofing including drybags in many sizes, barrels, backpack with garbage bag liner, etc. Contain your gear so that if you capsize, portage, load and unload, you have less pieces to deal with.
Transport Canada requires that you carry some safety items while canoeing (or kayaking).
- An approved pfd or lifejacket for each person on board
- A sound making device (we recommend a whistle on your pfd)
- A bailing device (or pump)
- A minimum 15m buoyant heaving line (a commercially available throwbag is best)
- A light if you're travelling at night
If you're a trip leader or guide there are additional requirements.
Have a spare paddle secured but quickly accessible in your canoe. It is fairly common to accidentaly drop a paddle and have it go out of reach quickly. Also, paddles break! Especially while river canoeing. A spare paddle can also be very useful if its a different blade shape or length for a different style of paddling. For example, if your trip is mostly lake but includes some river paddling, take a river paddle as a spare.
Polypropylene rope floats, and it is the only kind of synthetic rope that does! The cheap, wirey, yellow braided rope is polypropylene but don't buy it. Get good marine or rescue grade polypropylene ropes that are strong and hold knots. The most common use is for painters (end ropes) and throwbags. The best rope diameter is 8-12mm so you can hold on to it easily with cold hands.