Paddling guidelines






  • Shall be led by a trip coordinator who is a Club Member
  • Shall always include a trip coordinator and a sweep paddler
  • Shall always include a minimum of three boats
  • Every paddler will be compliant with Transport Canada regulations for the gear and equipment of the kayak in which they will be travelling
  • Every paddler will be compliant with Transport Canada regulations for their personal kayak gear
  • Every paddler will wear a properly fitting PFD while on the water
  • Trip schedule and planned route will be provided to at least one other club member who is NOT going on that trip
  • Trip coordinators do not act as guides nor instructors on any Club trip
  • Every effort will be made by all participants to avoid disturbing wildlife, on land, in the air, and on, in, and under the water.
  • Landing sites will be left in the same or better condition

Quadra Outdoor Club kayak trip guidelines for a fun, safe, and legal trip

Transport Canada  TP14726 “Sea kayaking safety guide”  — free booklet, also available online at
The equipment requirements are listed in Chapter 5, but do read the whole thing.

Be self sufficient

Being self sufficient means being capable, knowledgeable, and equipped so that you can stay out of trouble and deal with unexpected difficulties.  Participating in a trip, which is beyond your ability, puts you and the group at risk.

  • capable — physically and mentally, trained, and experienced.
  • knowledgeable —  about what to do, what not to do, what can go wrong and what to do then, about the location and the weather. Know your skill level. Know the risks. Plan ahead. Be aware.
  • equipped — with suitable clothing, food, water and other supplies, in addition to the safety and navigation equipment.

In order to participate in multiple-day kayak trips, a club kayaker must take at least one day-trip with the group or demonstrate the required skills.  It is compulsory to demonstrate the ability to re-enter a kayak by assisted-rescue or self-rescue before participating in multiple-day kayaking trips.

Watch out for your buddies.  There is additional safety in a group, as long as everyone in the group watches out for each other.

  • Stay in sight and signalling distance of each other; faster kayakers don’t leave the slower ones behind
  • Know who the sweep is in order to keep aware of how spread out you are
  • count kayaks often
  • Keep close enough together to be able to reach a kayaker in trouble quickly.  How close is close enough depends on conditions and the strengths of all the kayakers.    A large group may divide into pods.  Read about how to do  this here:
    No one wants to have to herd cats.


  • Confirm with trip co-ordinator your intent to participate in the trip; see the trip schedule for confirmation deadline
  • It is strongly recommended that you share with the trip coordinator information about any medical condition that you have that could affect your participation on a trip.  If you have a condition that could result in your not being able to communicate with the trip coordinator, you MUST have information about that condition in an envelope in your pack or drybag, as well as contact information.
  • Confirm with co-ordinator
    • The trip route, distance, and duration to ensure it is within your abilities
    • The meeting place, date and time
  • Check weather to ensure conditions will be within your comfort level
  • Dress for the weather; bring extra clothes
  • Pack enough food and water, and some extra
  • Ensure that a person who is NOT going on the trip is aware of your participation in the trip, and has a description of your kayak


  • Sign the trip sign-up sheet
  • Assist in moving kayaks from land to water
  • Introduce self to other participants
  • Ensure that you are aware of the trip route ; expected weather, winds, tides and currents;  group signals; who is paddling lead and sweep

During the Trip

  • Wear your properly fitted and secured PFD at all times while on the water
  • Be aware of the trip co-coordinator’s and sweep’s responsibilities, and cooperate with him/her with respect to the safety and comfort of all group members
  • Ensure that any landing sites are left in the same or better condition
  • Stay within signalling distance of other group members
  • Be prepared to form a pod for crossings and when deemed necessary by the trip co-ordinator
  • If a rescue becomes necessary, and you are not involved, raft up with all other group members; seek a sheltered area if needed while waiting for the rescue to be completed
  • Advise trip co-ordinator of any discomfort or difficulty you experience that is affecting your performance, or of any concerns that relate to the safety or comfort of the other participants

Trip Conclusion

  • Assist in moving kayaks to land, and onto vehicles if possible

EXTRA GEAR – you might want to take with you – and probably should

  • Matches and firestarter
  • Set of extra clothes in dry bag or plastic bag
  • Personal sanitation bag to include some toilet paper, small plastic bags for used t.p., hand sanitizer
  • GPS, SPOT, Compass, chart(s)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Water and emergency rations (eg granola bars)
  • VHF radio, Family Radio (FRS)


Trip coordinators are not guides and do not assume responsibility for the skill level of any trip participant.  Trip coordinators have agreed to arrange and organize a paddling trip. Each participant is expected to be aware of their own abilities and limitations, and be responsible for their own safety.

Responsibilities of Trip Coordinator include:

Trip planning to include

  • Knowledge of, and/or awareness of
    • Predicted weather
    • Route including potential hazards
    • Applicable tides and currents
  • Obtaining appropriate marine charts if required
  • Plan alternative if possible if conditions are unfavourable for original trip


  • File trip plan with a Club Member who is NOT going on the trip
  • Confirm lead (if not self) and sweep paddlers
  • Carry emergency phone numbers of nearest emergency contacts (Air-Sea Rescue, Coast Guard, RCMP) and/or be licensed to, and carry, a VHF radio
  • The trip coordinator, or someone on the trip, needs to have a VHF radio
  • Advise participants as soon as possible if it becomes necessary to cancel the trip

Pre-Launch with ALL participating paddlers present

  • It is essential that all participants sign the waiver before taking a trip.  Club members will have already signed the waiver, but non-members have probably not signed.  Ensure that anyone who is not a Club member has signed or signs the waiver before beginning a trip.
  • Note: A trip participant does not have to be a Club member if s/he is taking a day-trip as a trial (free) or if s/he is a guest ($5 for a day-trip).  A guest may only take two day-trips per season.  A participant on a multi-day trip must be a member.
  • Have everyone sign the trip sign-up sheet.  Leave the sign-up sheet in a vehicle at the launch site and return it to the Club Exec on your return.  Please have a copy of the waiver, the trip sign-up sheet and an Incident Report form with you, available from the webpage.
  • Make introductions if needed
  • Endeavour to ensure that only paddlers who are properly skilled and equipped participate in the trip
  • Identify and introduce lead paddler (if not trip coordinator) and sweep paddler; confirm their role responsibility to the group
  • Outline route including level of difficulty; any planned landings; crossing requiring pod formation; meal/bathroom breaks; possible and known hazards; areas of special interest; predicted weather, tides, currents as appropriate for the trip
  • Review use of communication signals within group including whistle, raised paddle, radio (See Paddling Trip Guidelines)
  • Review emergency and rescue procedures as per Club’s Paddling Trip Guidelines

On the Water

  • Endeavour to keep group within signalling distance of each other
  • Set a comfortable pace
  • Ensure that any landing sites are left in the same or better condition
  • Ensure that sweep is in, and stays in, position
  • Ensure that group forms a pod for long crossings, crossings involving ferry or other significant boat traffic
  • Modify trip if needed according to wind, weather, paddling skill levels
  • If there is an accident, complete the Incident Report and return it to the Exec

Post Trip

  • Record trip in Club Paddling Trip Log
    • Note any conditions or incidents that future trip coordinators should be aware of
    • Note any items that could be improved for future trips

Updated May 2017

(Based on Transport Canada Requirements (see link below))


  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or lifejackets approved for use in Canada and a suitable size for each person. PFD must be worn and properly secured at all times when on the water.
  • A buoyant heaving line at least 15 m. long (floating throwline or throwbag)
  • A paddle for each paddler plus one spare paddle in good condition per kayak.
  • A bailer or water pump to remove water attached under bungee cord or tied to the boat. A large sponge is also very helpful.
  • A sound-signalling device – a waterproof whistle, attached to your PFD. Foghorn or airhorn as well are also acceptable.
  • Navigation lights – are required between sundown and sunrise or in reduced visibility; a white light visible over 360⁰ . Waterproof flashlight is acceptable.

FOR BOATS  6 – 8 m

  • All of the above plus
  • Six type A, B, or C flares.


Sea Kayaking Safety Guide: pdf format


  • Paddle
    • Vertical: come together, raft up
    • Horizontal held above head: STOP – Attention!
    • Held at shoulder level and pointing – LOOK  – something of interest
  • Whistle
    • Series of short blasts: come together, raft up
    • One loud blast: STOP and look – Attention!


  • Participants not involved in the rescue should raft up and seek a nearby sheltered area if necessary
  • The Rescuee should follow  the instructions of those assisting in the rescue
  • Preventing hypothermia should be the prime consideration when making further decisions


The following guidelines have been adapted largely from DFO sources for Kayak paddlers:




  • BE CAUTIOUS and COURTEOUS: approach areas of known or suspected marine wildlife activity with extreme caution. Look in all directions before planning your approach or departure.
  • SLOW DOWN: reduce speed when within 400 metres/yards of the nearest whale. Avoid abrupt course changes.
  • KEEP CLEAR of the whales’ path. If whales are approaching you, cautiously move out of the way.
  • DO NOT approach whales from the front or from behind. Always approach and depart whales from the side, moving in a direction parallel to the direction of the whales.
  • DO NOT approach or position your vessel closer than 100 metres/yards to any whale.
  • STAY on the OFFSHORE side of the whales when they are traveling close to shore.
  • LIMIT your viewing time to a recommended maximum of 30 minutes. This will minimize the cumulative impact of many vessels and give consideration to other viewers.
  • DO NOT swim with, touch or feed marine wildlife.




  • Should dolphins or porpoises choose to ride the bow wave of your vessel, avoid sudden course changes. Hold course and speed or reduce speed gradually.


To some marine life, kayaks have the appearance of sea lions, and can create panic in a seal colony or provoke real sea lions. Be especially cautious around seal colonies from February to June, pupping season (depending on latitude). Panicked seals will clamber over each other, and their pups, in their desperation to escape into the ocean.

  • AVOID HAVING KAYAKS FACING WILDLIFE DIRECTLY; stay parallel , approach from the side
  • BE CAUTIOUS AND QUIET when around haul-outs and bird colonies, especially during breeding, nesting and pupping seasons (generally May to September). Do not talk or make any unnecessary noise or movement
  • REDUCE SPEED, pass slowly without stopping
  • STAY  100 metres/yards  away from any marine mammals or birds
  • PAY ATTENTION and move away, slowly and cautiously, at the first sign of disturbance or agitation.
  • DO NOT disturb, move, feed or touch any marine wildlife, including seal pups. If you are concerned about a potentially sick or stranded animal, contact the Vancouver Aquarium   604-659-3400



Christopher Calabretta; PhD, Oceanography, University of Rhode Island

Brooke Longval; PhD, Oceanography, University of Rhode Island

According to the Protected Resource Division of the NOAA Fisheries Service, harassment of a seal occurs when “your behavior changes their behavior.”

It is common for seals to haul out on land for rest, temperature regulation, social interaction or to avoid predators. Rest is something that seals are not able to achieve when they are continuously approached, and exhaustion makes them vulnerable to predators and illness. NOAA recommends a minimum safe viewing distance of at least 50 metres.

Other important guidelines are never attempt to feed seals, keep noise to a minimum, and always keep pets on a leash when approaching a haul-out area.

Some warning signs that your presence is causing a seal unnecessary stress include movement back into the water, increased vocalization, or disturbance from a normal resting position – for example, if it lifts its head and stretches its neck to watch you. It is important to remember that seals are wild animals and, although they may look adorable, if they feel threatened they can bite you or your pet.

For those interested in additional information, NOAA has published a complete set of seal watching facts and guideline that provides an excellent resource for responsible viewing. To find it, search “NERO seal watching guidelines PDF” on Google:


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