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Safe at Sea: Paddle sports require paddle smarts
July 11, 2018

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Paddlesports are the fastest growing recreational watercraft. The popularity of kayaks, paddleboards and canoes continues to rise among boaters of all ages because they are affordable and portable, and paddling improves one's health. However, paddlers need to know how to keep themselves safe on the water.

The following are some guidelines for those using kayaks, canoes and paddleboards:

- Make sure the craft has a Vessel Safety Check. The service is provided free by the Sanibel-Captiva chapter of America's Boating Club by calling 239-985-9472 to schedule a check up.

- While in any paddlesport craft, everyone must wear a U.S.C.G.-approved Personal Flotation Device or life jacket at all times while afloat.

Experienced paddlers frequently travel long distances and, as a result, further preparation is needed:

- A Float Plan, listing the route to be taken and the timeline for return, should be given to someone at the home port.

- A generous drinking water supply is critical.

- If the paddler does not have a cell phone with GPS, he or she should have a handheld VHF radio. The items should be stored in a waterproof bag.

- Always carry a sound-producing device, which can be as simple as tying a whistle to your life jacket.

- Constant protection from the sun includes sunglasses, hats, and clothing with an SPF treatment. Be sure to wear high-visibility clothing. While few paddlers carry distress flares, carrying a handheld mirror will provide a simple means to draw attention in case of emergency.

Finally, paddlers should keep these critical steps in mind whenever they head out on the water, regardless the vessel:

- Check weather conditions. Remember, tides and currents can be strong near shore locations and in mangrove areas.

- Do not go alone.

- Inspect your craft before launching. Sometimes, snakes or other critters may be hiding in the bow or stern.

- Essential items to carry include a spare paddle, good knife and first aid kit.

A world of adventure awaits you on the waterways close to home. Memories of times on the water can last a lifetime. Remember to "Be Smart - Be Safe!"

Robert Healey is a member of America's Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more information, contact 239-985-9472 or Commander@SanibelCaptivaSPS.org or visit online at americasboatingclub.org.

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