Being a Considerate Boater
By Chris Evans
This is my list of top tips on how to be a considerate paddler, keeping the fun in our sport and making sure we all have a good day out on the water.
Right of Way or 'Need of Way'?
If you are traveling down stream then generally speaking, you have right of way over boats in front of you. But let.s face it, it.s rarely that simple.
We all need to apply a little common sense in this area. If another paddler or even a group of boaters are obviously .out of their depth. and struggling to cope, it should only reasonable to expect you allow them right of way, because they may have little or no choice over their direction or speed anyway.
Whether you are a play boater dropping onto a wave or a river runner belting down stream, collisions can almost always be avoided by pausing and looking before you set off to check the water both up stream and down stream of you is clear.
As for someone colliding with you on the water?
Just move on, remember we all boat for fun and we were all beginners once.
Often with paddling in the UK involves parking in lay bys, public car parks or country lanes. Think about others when changing to avoid upsetting local residents or passers by, keep music quiet or off and control inappropriate language to avoid offending the public.
Also, have a good look around when you park to make sure you haven.t caused an obstruction. Consider things like gates, driveways and ensure there is plenty of room for cars, vans or even farm machinery to pass your car. If you are in any doubt at all, move your car.
Paddlers can have a huge impact on the environment without even realising it. We need to be aware of all the issues, including everything from bank erosion to scaring livestock. Think about where you get on and off the river, where you are portaging, how much water you have and where the stretch of water you are paddling goes.
For example a very remote gorge in the middle of nowhere that very rarely gets paddled is unlikely to be near somewhere where your going to frighten live stock, instead there may be very rare flora on the banks that you could inadvertently trample when accessing the river, inspecting rapids or portaging. Equally something like the river Rothay in the Lake District travels over a nature reserve and through farmland so there is every chance that you could disturb wildlife and live stock. Paddling a river with little water in it could interrupt the spawning patterns of fish. Do your homework, know the issues and make sure you don.t cause ay damage.
Other Water Users
Keep an eye out for other water users (not just paddlers) both on the water and on the banks. If you are paddling a river, give plenty of space to fishermen on the banks and if they have chosen a pool to fish in, pass as quickly as safely possible instead of playing the jet of water or feature they are fishing at. Be courteous too, (even if they are less than courteous towards you).
In the mountainous areas of the UK the local community often rely heavily on the revenue from tourism so keep that at the forefront of your mind. Don.t shop at the supermarket before you leave home, wait and shop when you get there. Go out of your way to purchase local food, instead of buying from supermarkets, use local campsites or hotels and visit local pubs and restaurants.
Public and Private Property Impact
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of waterway banks are on someone.s land and it.s very easy to do damage without meaning to or even realising that you are. When making your way to and from any waterway, try your utmost to minimize damage to fences, walls, gates and land. In some extreme cases paddlers have had boats and paddles confiscated by local landowners.
I.ve already mentioned the environmental impact that paddling in low water can have. It can also upset the local fishing communities, landowners and the environment agencies. Having lived in the south of England for a number of years before moving to North Wales I know what its like to drive for hours and find no water in the rivers and how tempting it can be to just get on them any way. Irresponsible behaviour here can quickly lead to access agreements being changed against our favor.
Why not take a mountain bike, hiking boots or climbing kit with you as a back up activity for if the river levels let you down.
Keep paths and walkways clear so that members of the public can get past without hassle. Padlers tend to carry lots of kit with them and at the start or end of a days boating there.s the kit you.re wearing too. It.s very easy to end up scattering your boat, paddle and assorted kit everywhere. Try to avoid problems by keeping everything contained in one area and make sure you are well away from paths, gates people, cars or any where else where you and your gear could get in the way.
Take only pictures, Leave only footprints.
By taking home rubbish and not forgetting kit it stops car parks, laybys and riverbanks from becoming unsightly and an environmental issue.
Don.t be afraid to pick up rubbish other people have left either. In a way it.s almost as bad to turn a blind eye to loose rubbish nearby when you have a bag handy with your won garbage in it. Pick a few extra bits up every time you go and you will feel good about yourself and do us all a favour.
So the worst has happened, you.ve been shouted at for getting the way of fishing lines, told you can.t be on a stretch of river or someone has dropped in on you while surfing a wave or collided with you or your boat.
Is having an argument going to make the situation any better?
Instead, try to be calm and polite. Remember why you are there . to have fun right? Allowing yourself to get wound up will ruin all of that. Don.t let it happen.
A quick .sorry. to the fisherman or landowner telling you off can not only defuse most situations, it can help to make the paddling community look mature, responsible and approachable. An image that would go along way to improve access issues in the UK.
With these simple top tips in mind we can continue to give off the impression that we are simply enthusiasts in a sport, and not out to cause trouble at all. Just to have a little fun.