See and Be Seen – Kayaking Safety, Be Sure You Can See and Be Seen

Photo Credit: Anne Nygard/Unsplash

One of the most important things to remember about kayaking and canoeing is the very thing that we are trying to forget by paddling. That is, paddlers want to get out on the water and believe that they are the only ones there. The stark reality is of course that there are other people in the world and out on the water. It is for this reason that one of the most important water safety observances is to “see and be seen.”

Much is meant by the phrase “see and be seen” by kayakers and canoeists. Here are five such things that are meant by this phrase to paddlers.

“See”: Be Aware of Your Surroundings

This is one of the most important safety measures you can take once out on the water. You always need to know what is going on around you. Take notice of the features of the body of water you are on. Identify landmarks and buoys and know where the channel is. Look out for natural dangers such as fast currents, debris in the water, and obstructions in your boat’s path. After a while, this sense will develop like that of a spy scanning a room. It is so imperative that you know where you are and what is around you at all times in the water.

“See”: Watch out for Other Boats

It is your responsibility when paddling boats of any sort to stay out of the way of other boats. Larger watercraft are less maneuverable, more powerful, and often have less visibility at their disposal. This makes for a dangerous combination. It is therefore the job of the paddler to ensure their own safety by watching out for other boats. This can also be known as the “law of gross tonnage” or more simply as common sense.

“Be Seen”: Make Sure Other Boats See You

It is not enough to see or take notice of another boat. It is crucial that you make sure that they can see you. This can be done by waving your arms and paddling in the air. Of course, you should make some noise, but in most cases, they won’t hear you over the roar of their engine. This is where load whistles and air horns come in handy. Still, whether they see you or not you will need to do your part to avoid a collision with them.

“Be Seen”: Make Sure You are Noticeable in Emergency Situations

Being noticeable in emergency situations begins with the purchase of your canoe and kayak gear. Bright colors are your best bet for kayaks, paddles, PFDs, and paddling jackets. While in the water, in between swells, and among the chop, kayaks and canoes are difficult objects to see. Wearing bright, even reflective gear will help your chances of being seen. This will not only help you to avoid a collision with a larger boat, it will also help you to find your gear should you become separated from any of it.

“See and Be Seen”: The Responsibility to Stay Safe is Up to You

As can be seen from the previous four points of “See and be seen,” these factors all build on each other and work together. You must be aware of your surroundings at all times. When your surroundings include other boats, it is your job to ensure you are visible to those boats. Wearing bright and reflective colors will help in this endeavor. This can all be summed up as the responsibility of staying safe is up to you and no one else.