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Paddlecraft Preparation

Preparation and planning are part of what makes the boating experience FUN! Check out the information below to help you plan for your epic excursions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the water. Paddler rigging up a kayak

Make sure your vessel is in ship shape before lining up at the boat ramp:

  • Make sure your motor and other equipment is in good working order.
  • Prep your gear and supplies in the parking lot or staging area. Avoid any delays at the boat launch so traffic can flow.

​​Nuts have a way of loosening themselves over winter. Usually, you can test these with your fingers. Likewise, while knots usually don't come loose, the tension on deck lines may need tightening - or replaced.​​​

​​Kinks in cables, tight or stuck pulleys, stiff skeg releases - things lock up over winter. A good fall maintenance program usually mitigates these problems, but sometimes we forget until our first outing four months later. Usually, the same lubricant that you'd use for prevention (WD-​40, Corrosion Block) can be used as the cure. If you prefer to use more environmentally friendly lubricants such as silicon, you may have to physically work the stiffness out of the moving parts and then apply the silicon (usually in a gel form). Kinks and other obstructions in cables can be worked out but should be checked as they do decrease the efficiency of the cable.​​

​​Either as part of your rudder system check or alone, foot pedals should be checked as well. While sand and dirt are the usual culprits for locking up foot pedals, salt-water corrosion can jam everything up as well. Make sure the cable attachment is solid, too. It's not uncommon to find out your pedal is stuck only after you press forward and tear out the cable attachment (There's a reason that the pedal isn't moving so pressing harder is not the proper option).​​​

​​At least when a zipper is stuck open you can still use a gear bag. I find most often that on bags with a dual zipper where one side always seems to be stuck - and right at the base where the zipper pull is tucked under the seams. The biggest problem most paddlers encounter with zippers is that it sometimes takes more force to loosen the pull than the material can withstand and you end up tearing the unit right out of the track. Try lubrication products (wax, silicone spray, WD-40, and even the heat of a butane torch to wiggle zippers free). Rinse them regularly and lubricate them well. Stop locks usually chip and break. Expect this, and factor in their replacement. ​

​​The best protection is to thoroughly rinse the two sections after each use and let them air dry. If the paddle tube starts to stick, ​​add a light layer of silicon and work through it to loosen it. ​​

​​It's just good sense to make sure nothing is worn to the point it could fail while on the water. Of course, those things to be replaced should have been on your Christmas gift wish list, right?​​

​​Things spoil, get wet or dry, and otherwise outlive their purpose. I carry a kit with extra batteries, matches, and such and most assuredly they need to be checked each season (and then some). A common practice is to steal food from survival/emergency packs to ward off hunger on those days you forget to pack a snack. You figure one energy bar won't matter. Say that when you are out of food during the real thing. Better to refresh the emergency rations each spring and then have the willpower not to raid them during a weak moment of hunger.​​

​It's generally not a good idea to store any battery-powered electronic gear for long periods of time without first removing the batteries. It makes sense then to remember to replace them each spring. While most pieces of gear will show you how much battery juice remains, it seems that indicator hits "empty" pretty quickly, and usually at a very inopportune moment. Freshen up your stash of batteries each spring.​​

​​How's the padding on your racks and saddles? Pipe insulation is great to use as padding on roof racks and tend to replace them each summer or two depending on use. For contact spots on some saddles that require extra cushioning, it's a good idea to make sure the clamps on your rack aren't worn or twisted, or otherwise compromised from taking a good grip on your vehicle.​​

​May this be the spring you are going to push your paddling envelope to develop or enhance more skills! Is this the summer you are going to make the extended trip? Whatever goals you set last winter and haven't yet achieved, make those a priority. Maybe you took part in pool sessions. Use spring to hone those skills throughout the season.​

There are many things one can add or change to this list. The important thing is to maintain a responsible attitude towards your gear - for safety's sake and for optimum paddling pleasure. Good equipment works better and is safer. Now get out there and enjoy the season!​