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Paddling with ConnYak

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Connecticut Sea Kayakers (ConnYak) is a diverse group with a passion for sea kayaking. Our members coordinate paddles for their own enjoyment and that of our local paddling community. Club activities range from shorter paddles on protected waters to longer, more exposed paddles on open water, as well as practice sessions, rescue clinics and other events. In the colder months we offer pool practice sessions and hold monthly meetings that will often include a speaker or a presentation.

ConnYak's Common Adventure Model

ConnYak does not provide instruction. Many members are experienced kayakers, some are certified instructors, and most possess both the knowledge and the willingness to help you learn about the sport. Nevertheless, we highly recommend that you begin by taking a basic kayaking course, and that you continue to advance your skills with professional instruction.

ConnYak does not use leaders for its paddles. Each person is responsible for his or her own decisions. Everyone who attends a paddle should be prepared to participate by having the proper kayak, gear, clothing, skills and judgment to complete the paddle safely. This of course does not mean that others will not try to help you if a problem occurs. Kayaking is a potentially dangerous sport that presents a risk of serious injury or death. You must develop and use your own judgment to determine which activities are right for you. Remember: you choose to attend a ConnYak event at your own risk and accept all responsibility for your own safety.

Scheduled and Pick-up Paddles

ConnYak paddles are posted on our website Events Calendar. At a minimum, the times and launch sites will be listed. Directions to the launch can be found either in the listing or on the website. The time shown is when you should be on the water and ready to paddle away. Please arrive early enough to prepare and launch because everyone wants to leave at the scheduled time.

Many members (and occasionally non-members) will post pick-up paddles on our Bulletin Board. Please remember that these are not ConnYak events. Often these posts will fill gaps intentionally left in the club schedule and on occasion, will provide an alternative for those seeking different challenges or locations. While anyone may post a pick-up paddle, we encourage those doing so to employ the same guidelines that apply to club paddles and to include sufficient detail for others to make an informed judgment about whether to participate. You must use your own judgment when deciding to join a pick-up paddle, and accept all risks and responsibility associated with the decision to do so.

Please be sure to check the club Bulletin Board before departing for an event, as on occasion there are last minute changes or cancellations due to weather conditions or other factors. If you have posted a pick-up paddle, as a matter of courtesy please post any changes to alert those who were planning to join you.

When Paddling with ConnYak

Coast Guard regulations require paddlers to carry an appropriate signaling device (a whistle). By law, a PFD (lifejacket) must be worn from October 1st to May 31st, and be easily accessible at all other times. ConnYak recommends that PFDs or other appropriate flotation devices be worn at all times. For open water paddles, sea kayakers should wear a sprayskirt or equivalent cockpit enclosure (for example, a tuilik or akuilisaq) and have a craft that is capable of self-rescue (i.e. that has flotation - bulkhead or float bags - fitted at both ends). It is of course essential to be able to release the sprayskirt and safely exit the kayak in the event of capsize, so be sure to learn and practice this important skill.

It is a good idea to bring the following on paddles: drinking water, food, sunscreen, a change of dry clothes, a bilge pump, a compass, and a paddle float. Seasoned paddlers often carry a chart, spare paddle, VHF radio, tow belt, first aid kit and/or other gear whenever they paddle. You will have the opportunity to learn from their experience as you develop your own preferences.

Special considerations exist for paddling in cold water, rock gardens or surf, darkness and winter. You should always prepare for the conditions, wear appropriate clothing and bring any necessary safety equipment.

What to Expect on a ConnYak Trip

The trip level descriptions below are intended to provide guidelines for paddlers who are deciding whether to participate in an event. These descriptions should be read in conjunction with any additional information posted in the event listing (for a club paddle), or any bulletin board posting that announces a pick-up paddle or subsequently revises the plan for any paddle.

Paddlers are encouraged to hold a brief meeting before launching to introduce one another and discuss the particulars of the day's paddle. If you are new to the group, be sure to introduce yourself and to voice any questions or concerns you may have at the outset, as a pre-launch meeting can sometimes be overlooked. Non-members are always welcome to join a ConnYak paddle and accept the same level of personal responsibility as members.

It is the nature of our sport that actual conditions can change dramatically with little or no warning. When you launch your kayak, you should be appropriately equipped for the trip (see notes above about the use of a PFD, sprayskirt and signaling device). In addition, paddling plans may need to be changed to adjust of necessity to conditions and the needs of the group, and one must be alert to changes both before and during a trip.

Paddlers are expected to maintain a sense of group awareness. Faster paddlers should remember to pause every so often to allow the group to collect. If you decide to leave the group for any reason, it is essential that you alert others in the group of your decision to do so. Each paddler must use his or her own judgment in making the decision to join a paddle. Your decision to launch should be based on some of the following considerations and others:

  • the level of the trip
  • the forecasted weather, tide and current conditions
  • your skill and experience level
  • your comfort level with the other participants

Trip Ratings

A Practice will most often take place at summer lake sessions, picnics or similar events on calm, protected water. These gatherings are suitable for all paddlers of any skill level and are a great way to get started as a sea kayaker. Typically, a mile or so of paddling will lead to an informal practice session where people will be working to improve various skills as well as assisting others with self learning. While ConnYak does not provide formal instruction, with a mutual sharing of ideas, much can be learned in this supportive environment.

A Level 1 paddle is typically a relaxing trip of about 6 miles on relatively protected, calm waters that is covered in a couple hours. The trip will have a slow pace with time to chat, and typically include a lunch break on a nice beach. If you have some modest experience paddling, you should be fine to join a Level 1 trip.

A Level 2 trip is for paddlers who have become comfortable in their boats and are looking to stretch their skills a bit. The average trip covers about 6 to 10 miles at a slow pace. You may have to cross some open water, and sprint briefly to cross a channel or avoid an approaching vessel. You may encounter some modest conditions, so if you are happy splashing through some small waves and don't mind a little wind, this is probably a suitable trip for you. A typical trip will include paddling for 1 to 2 hours before breaking for lunch. Often other participants will take some time after lunch or at the end of the paddle to practice safety techniques and other paddling skills, and you may find this to be a good opportunity to work on your boat handling and kayak re-entry skills.

On Level 3 trips you can expect to find paddlers who are becoming more comfortable in rougher water. These trips often cover 8 to 12 miles and you can expect to be in your boat for 2 hours at a time, maintaining a moderate pace with extended periods of non-stop paddling. With a greater likelihood of wind and higher waves, you may at times have to work fairly hard to maintain headway and brace with your paddle to keep your balance. You should be prepared to do a self-rescue such as a paddle-float re-entry or Eskimo roll, and to assist in a group rescue. If you are becoming a more self-sufficient paddler, this may be the trip for you.

On Level 4 paddles you will find other paddlers who are confident in a wide variety of conditions from strong winds to swifter currents to large waves. Reaching a destination may necessitate crossing open water with little opportunity to rest for several hours. The typical pace is moderate, covering 10 to 15 miles in a day with a lunch break of less than an hour. If you feel you have good endurance and can control your boat comfortably in potentially strong winds and rougher water, this is likely to be a fun trip for you. You should be prepared to take care of yourself, including being confident doing some form of self-rescue and be willing to help others who may be in trouble by performing a group rescue.

Level 5 paddles typically proceed at a moderate or greater pace to cover a total of 15 to 20 or more miles in a day. These paddles are similar to Level 4 trips in most respects, but represent a greater challenge and with it, a need for more competence and endurance. You should be confident to take care of yourself (self-rescue) and be able to help others who are in trouble by performing a solo or group rescue.

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