This time of year it's more important than ever to focus on paddling safe, especially when taking on chilly downwinders. A lot of the downwind exploits we read and hear about around the World take place in much warmer climates. In Tassie we're on the doorstep of the Southern Ocean and things can get real in a hurry.
Some things to consider:
- Gear check - give your boat (rudder, rudder lines, hatches, footplate, leg leash attachment, hull & deck) and paddle (adjuster, blade/shaft join) the once over
- Wear a PFD and leg leash
- Carry a mobile phone and have that important number easily accessible
- Get serious about your layering - warm enough to deal with immersion, ideally windproof. Cover feet. Consider covering head.
- Wear something bright
- Be able to remount at least one, preferably both sides unassisted
- Tell a non-paddler when you're going and when you 'll be home
- If you're paddling in a group have a chat before getting on the water, have a plan and talk about the "what-ifs" if that plan changes
- Check the forecast or get some good local beta. Be honest with how your skill level measures up to the conditions or group you're going with. Winter isn't the time to be a hero.
- Avoid crossing large bodies of water without a good crew. If the worst happened, most people wouldn't be able to swim more than a few hundred metres in paddling gear before getting freezing cold. So why choose routes that put you km's away from land.
- Use a light for dusk/night paddles
Know what you're doing is within your limits.
Know your surroundings.
Know your gear is bombproof.
Know your safety basics.
Know the people you are paddling with.
If you don't know - don't go!
Never get complacent - stay safe on the water this Winter.