Group paddling can be a lot of fun whether it is on a lazy stretch of river or at a lake. Getting a bunch of friends and even new acquaintances together for a paddle can be a wonderful experience, whether you are kayaking or canoeing.
It’s especially important to wear a life jacket when paddling. Summertime fun can become a tragedy if someone is injured or drowns. Several recent drownings have occurred in the area even when there were groups of paddlers and swimmers.
Paddling in a river with fast currents or swimming after or during a river paddle trip without wearing a life jacket is especially dangerous as several paddlers have found out lately in the Lehigh and Delaware rivers.
Always plan ahead for any group paddle. Make sure everyone is on board (no pun intended) before meeting at the starting point. Demand that everyone in the group brings and wears their life jacket.
This Friday evening is a full moon. Full moon paddles are especially fun and interesting if the weather co-operates. Any kayak, canoe, inflatable raft or paddleboard on the water after dusk must have a hand-held or installed white light to be displayed in time to avoid a collision with another craft. A rear blinking light is also helpful. Making yourself visible to other boats, especially motorboats is most important. Bicycles lights work well. All paddlers should pair up so no one is lost or left behind.
Lake Nockamixon in Bucks County is very popular for full moon paddlers. Several large groups from kayaking clubs and paddling organizations will most likely be there. Most use the Tohickon boat launch parking lot area. (Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.)
Here are some important tips to make your paddle safer.
- Always wear a life jacket, even when not required. Many models are cool and comfortable for warm weather boating. According to Pennsylvania’s boating accident reports, almost 80 percent of all boating fatalities happen to boaters not wearing a life jacket.
- Never boat alone.
- Keep a proper lookout. Always be aware of your surroundings.
- Leave a float plan with a responsible person and know the waters you plan to boat.
- If a launch permit is required make sure you have one. It’s a lot cheaper than paying a fine.
- Always check the weather and real-time river forecasts for the potential of hazardous high water.
- Bring a fully-charged cell phone with you in case of emergency. (Put cellphones and cameras in waterproof pouches. They are very inexpensive and can be purchased at sporting goods stores.)
- Never drink and boat. Save any drinking for after the trip when you are safely out of the water.
- Most important – have fun and enjoy the great outdoors.