Cowichan Kayak & Canoe Club
Group Paddling Guidelines

1. Guidance. The Cowichan Kayak & Canoe Club (CKCC) has an excellent record for paddling safety. To help members maintain this record the Directors of the Club provide the following guidelines for Club-sponsored group paddling trips.

2. Advantages of Group Paddling. The Club sanctions group paddling trips mostly in more sheltered waters on the East Coast of Vancouver Island especially among the Gulf Islands. The Club also has sanctioned paddling trips in other waters including those off the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Group paddling is a safer and a more enjoyable option than solo paddling. Experienced members can better manage marine hazards including strong winds, currents, standing waves, surf and fog as they can offer assistance to others and introduce them to new areas and experiences on the water. Sea kayaking is a cooperative, not competitive sport in our Club.

3. Decision to Participate. To help members pick suitable paddling trips, the Club’s Meetup schedule is available on line at which sets out trip descriptions including dates, areas, launching sites, difficulty, estimates of shelter or exposure and approximate distance. The names of the Trip Coordinators and their e-mail addresses are also provided.

4. Paddle trips are rated as follows:

Expected water conditions:
(A) Sheltered areas.
(B) Some exposure or mild currents; open water crossings more than 1.5 NM (3km)
(C) Open ocean paddling, surf, swells and/or strong currents.

Expected return distance: 1 nautical mile =1.85km
(1) Less than six nautical miles per day.
(2) Six to ten nautical miles per day.
(3) More than ten nautical miles per day.

5. Skills

All paddlers need special skills for personal safety and the safety of other members of a Club paddling group. The paddler must be able to perform a wet exit upon capsizing and perform an unassisted reentry. When the difficulty rating of a trip is greater than A1 the participant must also know how to participate in a group rescue of a capsized paddler.

The Cowichan Kayak & Canoe Club, other clubs and commercial outfitters offer skills and safety training, theoretical and practical. The Cowichan Kayak & Canoe Club offers instructed and practice pool sessions in the winter. All Club members are encouraged to take this training including, wet exits and entries, assisted rescues, group rescues and rolling. Rescues are never easy especially in rough water and can put others paddlers who assist at risk so regular practice is important.

Before each trip always check that your vessel is seaworthy.
This includes having watertight hatch covers and bulkheads.
By participating in a Club trip each member makes a representation that he or she has the necessary stamina and paddling skills to participate safely. A member who is in doubt about his/her stamina or skills should discuss it with the Trip Coordinator before participating.

Paddlers with health conditions that might interfere with paddling performance must inform the Trip Coordinator before a trip by emailing them at the same time they register on Meetup.
A Trip Coordinator may refuse to permit a paddler to participate in a Club trip if there is bona fide doubt that the paddler meets Club requirements. To resolve such a doubt, the leader may require a paddler to demonstrate skills at a mutually agreeable time and place before the start of the trip.

6. Commitments on day of paddle.
For reasons of safety and the Trip Coordinators appreciated efforts of running trips, participants definitely should not make any prior commitments on the day of the paddle that would pressure the participant or the group to return home earlier for any reason. In adverse weather or other unsuitable conditions such commitments could complicate the Trip Coordinators decisions and jeopardize the group’s safety.

7. Non-members. A non-member who wants to participate in a Club trip may participate if:
(a) the non member complies with all Club Guidelines,
(b) the leader agrees to the participation,
(c) the non-member signs and delivers to the Trip Coordinator a Waiver of Liability form found on the Club’s website.
(d) either the introducing Club member or the Trip Coordinator agrees to accompany the non-member on the trip

8. Discussion and Cooperation. The Trip Coordinator expects all participants to cooperate with him/her and with each other during the trip. The Trip Coordinator’s plan and directions are always flexible and can be modified for safety; weather conditions, suggestions by others or as circumstances dictate. A group should always stay together unless the trip coordinator decides otherwise. A participant intending to leave during a Club trip should notify the Trip Coordinator when registering for a paddle. A participant wishing to leave the group should consult with the trip coordinator. The choice to leave should take into account the safety of the participant leaving and of the remaining group. A participant who leaves should report his/her safe arrival to the trip coordinator as soon as possible.

9. Boats and Equipment Small Vessel Regulations. The Club expects each member must comply
with all Federal regulations as they apply to his or her vessel and its operation.
The Sea Kayaking Safety Guide and Safe Boating Guide is available only on line at:

Click to access TP14726E.pdf

Click to access TP511E.pdf

The following is taken from the Sea Kayaking safety guide

In order to abide by the regulations you must keep the following equipment on board:

(a) Personal flotation devices (PFD) or lifejackets approved for use in Canada and of a suitable size for each person on board. PFDs must be comfortable and functional enough to be worn at all times. Highly visible short models with pockets for distress flares, radio, and whistle are preferable. (On Club trips paddlers MUST ALWAYS wear their Personal Flotation Devices).
(b) A buoyant heaving line at least 15 meters long (floating throw line or throw bag).
(c) A manual propulsion device. The paddle is the propulsion device and must be carefully selected. It may be made of wood, plastic, aluminum, or composite materials. The blades may be feathered or un-feathered. Two-piece take-apart paddles are also available in all four materials and are good emergency paddles.
(d) A bailer or manual water pump. A pump is more efficient. A large sponge can be used to remove remaining water. Don’t forget to tie them down.
(e) A sound-signaling device. You can use a whistle, a foghorn or a compressed air foghorn.
(f) Navigation lights. Between sundown and sunrise or when visibility is reduced, a white light visible over 360 meters is preferable, but a waterproof flashlight is acceptable.
Boats between 6m (19’8”) and 8m (26’ 3”) long:
(a). All the above
(b). A waterproof flashlight
(c). Six, Type A, B, or C flares.

10. The Club recommends using or carrying the following items:

(a) Spray skirt for preventing water entering cockpit while paddling.
(b) Paddle float necessary for self re-entry.
(c) Spare paddle.
(d) Accessible knife.
(e) Extra clothes and emergency snacks for capsize or an unplanned overnight stay.
(f) VHF radio for weather information, emergencies, and communication between lead and sweep of a paddle group. (An operator’s certificate is required, administered by Canadian Power and Sailing Squadron). A waterproof floating model with GPS and Digital Selective Calling (DSC) is most desirable.
(g) First Aid Kit.
(h) Duct tape and emergency vessel repair kit.
(i) Flares.
(j) Appropriate chart for navigation.
(k) Compass.
(l) Helmet, for surf landings.

11. Navigation

All paddlers should become familiar with the use of tide tables, current tables, charts and use of a magnetic compass.
12 . Clothing

(a) The directors urge members to wear suitable cold water immersion gear when paddling in cool or cold waters to guard against hypothermia. In practice, this means that paddlers should wear such gear most of the time when paddling in BC coastal waters. These waters are seldom warm and in many cases never warm up, even in summer. In this context the Club’s minimum standard for cold water immersion gear is a 3mm thick neoprene Farmer John or Jane wet suit. This protection can be enhanced by adding a neoprene skull cap, neoprene gloves or pogies and a paddling jacket that closes or seals at the neck, wrists and waist. Another option is a dry suit worn with suitable clothes underneath; they generally provide a much longer period of cold water immersion protection.

(b) In summer if cold water protection is not worn it should still be carried on-board in an accessible place so that the kayaker can put ashore and change quickly in response to changing conditions.

(c) A change of clothes carried in a quickly accessible waterproof dry bag or container is also a necessity for putting on in the event of immersion, an overnight stay or while waiting for weather to change before continuing. A wet person is at risk of hypothermia under any conditions.

(d) When the Trip Coordinator is concerned with weather conditions before or during a Club trip, participants should respect the Trip Coordinator’s request to wear cold water immersion gear.

(e) The leader always has the discretion to limit participation if he/she feels a paddler is not adequately outfitted.

13. Guidelines for Approaching Marine Animals

It is a thrill to see marine animals on paddling trips but it is important to remember that we are guests in their environment and that our presence can be disturbing to them. Members should review the guidelines and report sightings on or Fisheries and Oceans Canada Web site at . Specifically for kayakers the guidelines for viewing whales, seals, sea lions and birds on land is from a distance of at least 100m/yd away. Pass on the off shore side and keep out of the Whales path if possible. Paddlers should observe cautious and quiet behavior when around haul-outs and bird colonies, especially breeding, nesting and pupping season, May-Sept.

To report marine mammal disturbances or harassment phone the Marine Mammal Incident Reporting Hotline (F & O Canada) at 1-800-465-4336. They also request that you report sick, injured, distressed or dead animals and sea turtles.

14. Policy on participants under 19 years of age

A member who is the minor’s parent or guardian must accompany them when attending club events including training, social events and trips, whether they are members or non-members.


Good leadership and cooperation by all participants will help to achieve the goal of group paddling which is to have fun. A successful trip is a credit to all participants.

These Guidelines replace all previously issued. Approved by CKCC Directors April 2015

 Group paddle Guidelines replace all previously issued Guidelines.

Approved by CKCC Directors April, 2015


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