It is important to keep safety as a top priority whenever you are planning an outdoor sport or expedition such as going kayaking on a lake, a river, or a stream. This is particularly important when you plan on going on a group trip. When you educate yourself and anyone else who will be going along with you of the dangers you might have to deal with, you are better prepared to handle difficult situations. You should be prepared to admit any limitations you have in skill, ability, or equipment, and also be aware of any limitations that exist among your partners. However, if you are prepared with the necessary plans and equipment for difficult situations, you can eliminate most, if not all, of the potential challenges you might face. A good safety protocol for paddling in groups on group kayak expeditions should include contingencies for maintenance, practice, planning, and preparation. This article will discuss some tips related to the aforementioned areas of group kayaking considerations.
Regarding maintenance, you should always inspect your equipment before you set out on a group kayak expedition so you can become aware of defects and damage before you are out on the water. The most critical thing to look for during such inspections are leaks, as they will reveal themselves once you are out in the water, and it is better to discover them ahead of time on dry land. When checking for leaks, you should inspect the hull of all of the kayaks that will be going out into the lake and look for holes or cracks. You should also check the gaskets of the hatches for signs of wear and tear. Inspect the drain plug and see if it has begun to fit poorly or if it looks worn. Also be on the lookout for seemingly minor things such as broken strap eyes, as such pieces of equipment can lead to larger problems, such as preventing you from using your knee straps when you are in your kayak. All of these inspections and maintenance that is deemed necessary can be taken care of on the shores of the water so there are no delays for your companions or the launch of the expedition. It can help to use some sort of check list to help make sure that you have all of the equipment you need and that it is in seaworthy shape.
Regarding preparation, it is necessary to have a float plan that describes a number of elements of your forthcoming trip. It is important to have a well organized group to prevent mis-communication and confusion that can arise out of group situations when kayaking. A good place to start is by designing and implementing a float plan, while leaving some room for change. The details of an individual plan can vary, but it is often good if they contain a number of essential components, such as the directions regarding where you plan to paddle and where it is located. You will want to have the starting and ending places clearly marked out and make sure everyone is aware of those spots, as well as the general direction the group is planning on following during the trip. Of course you will want to make sure you know how many people are in your group and who they are; this seems obvious but it never hurts to make sure everyone knows who everyone else is. It is also not a bad idea to share the plan with someone you can trust outside of the group who is not going along so they can alert the authorities or organize assistance if you request help or do not return on scheduled. To that end, the plan should be in writing.
Regarding planning, be sure to share the plan with everyone and designate lead and sweep kayakers. Try to give everyone radios for two-way communication. Regarding practice, it is always a good idea to have a number of practice sessions featuring the entire group in a variety of conditions if you expect to paddle for several days up or down a river in areas that some members of the group have not previously paddled through.