Paddling Safety



  • Always wear a PFD when on the water.

  • Take the time to plan and prepare for each trip.

  • Learn and practice self-rescues and assisted rescues.

  • Leave a float plan with someone you trust. It should include your route, launch site, take-out site, boat description and estimated times of departure and arrival.

  • Be prepared should the conditions become worse than expected.

  • Make sure your paddle craft is appropriate for the waters and weather you will be paddling in.

  • Always carry a first aid kit.

  • Always carry plenty of water and food.

  • Be aware of your abilities and limitations.

  • Always check the condition of your gear before departure.

  • Take an on-water class to further your abilities.

  • Wear quick dry clothing when possible.

  • Stay fueled and hydrated.

  • When paddling in a group, never paddle beyond the abilities of your weakest paddler.

  • Bring a basic repair kit, bilge pump, sunglasses, sun screen and bug repellant.

  • Wear proper water shoes.

  • Carry a spare paddle.


  •  Be proficient in map reading, GPS, and compass use.

  • Be aware that modifying your route may be necessary due to weather and extreme low tides, especially in the winter months along the Big Bend and Nature Coast.


  • Always carry at least one form of communication (cell phone, VHF radio, satellite messenger, etc.) that has coverage for the area you are paddling, and a backup device.

  • If paddling in a group, always review hand and paddle signals with all your paddlers. When it is windy, often times even a loud whistle cannot be heard upwind.


  • Always check the weather right up to departure time, and during longer trips.

  • Check the tide charts before departure, and be aware how weather, especially winds, affect the tides. Low tides on the Big Bend, Nature Coast, and Florida Bay areas of special concern in the winter months.

  • In cold months, be aware of the symptoms and treatment for hypothermia. Cold water can be extremely dangerous.

Rules of the Road

  • Be aware of your surroundings.

  • Use reflective tape on your boat and paddles.

  • Any vessel less than 20 meters should not impede the passage of a larger vessel.

  • Be aware of and stay away from restricted areas.

  • Lights on another vessel are green on its starboard (right) side and red on its port (left) side.

  • Although paddlers generally do not have to stay within the channels, it's good to know the expected path of power and sailboats that do. Power and sailboats should keep red channel markers on their right and green markers on their left when returning, and the opposite when traveling downstream or out to sea.

  • Cross channels in a tight group.

  • At night, a white light must be displayed to all oncoming traffic.

  • If you are not crossing a waterway, stay close to shore.