Paddle Planning Guidelines
ConnYak offers these guidelines to its members solely as a planning aid for recreational paddling. They are not rules, or a checklist, and they do not imply that ConnYak, its officers, or members are "experts" at sea kayaking; they only are a suggested approach to assure clear communication and coordination between group members engaged in a particular kayak trip. Each paddler is responsible for their own safety, and makes their own decision to participate. ConnYak is not a guide service, or an instructional service; we are a group of individuals who share a passion for kayaking, and coordinate activities amongst ourselves for mutual enjoyment.
Guidelines For Paddling With ConnYak
Coast Guard regulations require paddlers to carry an appropriate signaling device (a whistle). By law, a PFD (lifejacket) must be worn from October 1st to May 31st, and be easily accessible at all other times. ConnYak recommends that PFDs or other appropriate flotation devices be worn at all times. For open water paddles, sea kayakers should wear a sprayskirt or equivalent cockpit enclosure (for example, a tuilik or akuilisaq) and have a craft that is capable of self-rescue (i.e. that has flotation - bulkhead or float bags - fitted at both ends). It is of course essential to be able to release the sprayskirt and safely exit the kayak in the event of capsize, so be sure to learn and practice this important skill.
Paddlers are encouraged to hold a brief meeting before launching to introduce one another and discuss the particulars of the day's paddle. If you are new to the group, be sure to introduce yourself and to voice any questions or concerns you may have at the outset, as a pre-launch meeting can sometimes be overlooked. Non-members are always welcome to join a ConnYak paddle and accept the same level of personal responsibility as members.
Upon launching, both at the beginning of the paddle, and after every landing, gather up the group just off shore, and out of the way of other boats launching and landing. A headcount of participants should be taken at this time. Nobody should depart until all are in the water and accounted for.
During The Paddle
It is the nature of our sport that actual conditions can change dramatically with little or no warning. When you launch your kayak, you should be appropriately equipped for the trip (see notes above about the use of a PFD, sprayskirt and signaling device). In addition, paddling plans may need to be changed to adjust of necessity to conditions and the needs of the group, and one must be alert to changes both before and during a trip.
Paddlers are expected to maintain a sense of group awareness. Faster paddlers should remember to pause every so often to allow the group to collect. If you decide to leave the group for any reason, it is essential that you alert others in the group of your decision to do so. Each paddler must use his or her own judgment in making the decision to join a paddle. Your decision to launch should be based on some of the following considerations and others:
Any channel crossing should be done in a quick, organized fashion. Kayaks DO NOT have the right of way in a channel, so it is best to stop the entire group at a channel marker, and proceed as a "pod" across the channel when it is clear.
The inter-tidal zone in Connecticut (Between high & low tide marks) is public property. However, landing in front of someone's house for lunch will still cause a law enforcement encounter that you do not need. Try to land in areas that are known public access, or out of sight of private property.
If a paddler capsizes and exits the boat, stop the entire group. The only boats that should approach the victim are the intended rescuer(s). Everyone else should try to stay a minimum of 30 feet away. The rescuers are in charge of the entire group until such time as it is determined that, either the victim is OK and able to continue, or until a contingency plan is made if the victim cannot continue.
Everyone in the group can help with the paddle. Noticing a point of interest, coming up with an alternative route,etc, are all part of the fun of paddling a kayak. It is not necessary to set a plan in stone and ignore other possibilities. Simply speak up!
Also, if you notice a problem, hazard, straying paddler, or anything else that may detract from the enjoyment of the paddle, call for a stop by VHF, whistle or horn, and announce your concern to the group as a whole. Anyone in the group can do this, not just the "lead" or "sweep" paddlers.
If these simple guidelines are used, group paddling becomes a much more enjoyable and safer time.
Have fun and be safe!