SAFETY TIPS FOR PADDLING LAKE MICHIGAN
Lake Michigan can be very dangerous, with weather conditions changing quickly, and motor boat traffic creating additional hazards for boaters unprepared. Here are some guidelines to make your paddle safer. The Chicago area has several sea kayaking clubs and many businesses offering guided tours and/or instruction. Check IPC’s webpage for a list of clubs and businesses.
1. Check the Chicago near-shore marine forecast on NOAA weather radio-either the Romeoville station or by using NOAA's web site: www.nws.noaa.gov
certain you have all of the paddling essentials with you before you go on the
ON THE WATER CONCERNS
BE VISIBLE – BUY A BRIGHTLY COLORED BOAT, WEAR BRIGHT CLOTHES, IF PADDLING IN THE EVENING, YOUR BOAT MUST HAVE LIGHTS, PUT REFLECTIVE TAPE ON YOUR PADDLE, YOUR PFD, AND STAY ALERT AND OUT OF THE WAY WHEN YOU HEAR MOTORS.
1. Paddling from Diversey Harbor
Obey the red and
green traffic lights for going into or out of the harbor.
· Remember that beaches are off limits to kayakers from Memorial Day to Labor Day with a few exceptions where the kayakers can use small portions of some beaches designated as part of the Lake Michigan Water Trail.
· Stay out of the way of motorized craft-even if you have the right-of way. You have to keep a constant watch for motor craft because they're not going to see you until they're very near you and often the big cruisers are on auto pilot. You won't show up on anyone's radar
· The new sea wall from Diversey Harbor south to North Ave. Beach and North to Belmont Harbor reflects both wind driven waves and motor craft wake waves, so even on a calm day, there may be confused waves outside of the mouth of Diversey Harbor.
2. Destinations out of Diversey Harbor
· Water cribs -- strong easterly or westerly winds make for a tough trip to either the Wilson Crib or the Harrison Crib since you'll be paddling one direction against the wind. It's wise to paddle against the wind for the first part of your trip so that the last part of your trip, when you're more tired, is easier.
· Montrose Harbor -- typically the choice when the wind is out of the N or NE.
· Navy Pier -- a good choice with SE, S, or SW wind. Stay out of the large boat lanes as you near the breakwater. Know that the "No Boats" buoys pertain to kayaks too as you near the water filtration plant.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
· Practice in the presence of other paddlers only.
· Do self tests to see how your skills are progressing.
· Purposely capsize your boat near the end of your paddle close to the take-out. This will let you know if your choice of clothing is working and it allows you to practice getting back into your boat using self-rescue skills or assisted rescue skills if someone is paddling with you.
· Capsize again the next time you paddle, but do it near the middle of your paddle. Again, it will let you know if your choice of clothing works for you for a longer period of time rather than at the very end of your paddle. It also makes you do the self rescue or assisted rescue in water that may not be as well protected.
· Advance your paddling skills in more turbulent water next time. Start in 0-1ft. waves with little wind and paddle frequently enough so you know you can handle these conditions. Next pick 1-2ft. waves and a little stronger wind. As your skills improve, your confidence increases and you will be a safer paddler on the lake.
The above safety tips courtesy of Dan Leigh, ACA Sea Kayak Instructor, Prairie Coast Paddlers
Atlantic Kayak Tours:
Instructional booklets (PDF formats - Signalling/VHF, Cold Water Paddling, Sea