Choose a location that matches your skill level. If you are beginner you might want to choose a more protected area, such as, the Gulf Islands or the Broken Group Islands. Research a location for its exposure to wind, currents and consider the length of crossings. An intermediate to expert paddler will understand their skill level better in terms of sea state conditions. Research.
The British Columbia coastline is an inherently dangerous location, and marine trail users assume the risk of navigating the BC coast. The BC Marine Trails has pinpointed some key locations where risks are increased due to pre-existing known conditions or possibility of risk. However, marine trail users are cautioned that risk can occur at any time at any location, and proper equipment, clothing, rescue gear, preparation and training are recommended to ensure optimal safety. Recurring safety considerations include:
Currents and rips: Conditions will be lessened if not eliminated at slack times, so check the Tides and Currents Tables to find the safest time to cross or transit difficult locations.
Long crossings: The Salish Sea Marine Trail requires two long (10 km) open water crossings, for example, to transit the Strait of Georgia. This represents a stretch of water for advanced paddlers only.
Ferry Lane Crossings: Several busy ferry corridors must be crossed over the course of the Salish Sea Marine Trail, Gulf Islands Marine Trail, and other paddling routes on the coast. Risk can be minimized by monitoring the appropriate Canadian Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Services broadcast channels and by calling in on that same channel to alert traffic to your presence. This is strongly recommended for groups crossing ferry lanes or in questionable conditions such as chop, darkness or fog that could make paddlecraft difficult to see.
Shipping lanes: The most notable shipping lane on the Salish Sea Marine Trail, for example, is Burrard Inlet. Be sure to know where shipping lanes are located on your charts and monitor Canadian Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Services broadcast channels to track shipping movement. The following links can help you with traffic:
Before you even decide on a trip location you will need to have proper kayak or canoe equipment to meet Transport Canada safety regulations for a human-powered boat. First of all there is your basic list of safety equipment:
- Canadian approved life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD)
- One buoyant heaving line at least 15 meters long
- One re-boarding device – usually this is a paddle float that attaches to your paddle
- One watertight flashlight (recommended for all but required if your boat if longer than 6 m)
- Six (6) Canadian-approved flares of Type A (Rocket Parachute), B (Multi-Star) or C (Hand) if your boat is more than 6 meters in length
- One bailer or manual bilge pump
- One sound-signaling device (i.e. whistle)
- Navigation lights that meet the requirements set out in ‘Collision Regulations‘.
- One magnetic compass (not required on boats less than 8m in length)
- One radar reflector is required under certain conditions
- You obviously need a paddle, too. Especially if you are going to use the paddle float for re-entry of your boat or to move your boat forward!
- Many paddlers carry a VHF radio (you don’t need a license to carry it but to speak into it; however, in an emergency no one is going to fault you). Many paddlers also carry a cell phone (not usually waterproof) and sometimes a personal locator. One of the best is an ACR Personal locator.
- Whether you are renting or using your own kayak or canoe check it over. For example, on a rental kayak you may see a lot of wear around the footrest indicating the amount of use. Check to see it the boat is leaking or ask relevant questions.
The BC Marine Trail Code of Conduct was developed to support First Nations and guide paddlers on how to behave while on a paddling trip. Visit our long form for more details.
- You are on sensitive First Nations traditional land. Disturb nothing, take nothing.
- Campfires below high tide line only. Adhere to fire bans.
- If a toilet is unavailable, pack out human waste, or, in suitable locations, use tidal flush.
- Stay to the campsite area to avoid trampling.
- Do not dispose of gray water in freshwater or in the upland.
- Avoid disturbing and maintain regulated distances from all wildlife.
- Leave a site in its natural state and leave nothing behind.
Emergency Contact, Packing List, Float Plan
Weather, Tides, Currents
- Canadian Coast Guard
- Marine Weather – Environment Canada
- BC cities and towns
- Predict Wind
- Extended Forecasts for BC coast
- Synopsis for BC coast
- Marine Weather Guide – Pacific Coast (VHF radio guide)
- North American Surface Analysis
- Canadian Tide and Current Tables
- Tide, Currents, & Water Levels – Fisheries & Oceans Canada
- Big Wave Dave (Victoria area)
- WWW Tide and Current Predictor
- Parks Canada
- BC Parks
- BC Marine Parks Forever Society (Fundraising charitable society for marine parks, founded and supported by the Council of BC Yacht Clubs)
- Sea Kayak Guide Alliance of BC (SKGABC)
- SKGABC Printable Resources
- Marine Mammal Viewing Guidelines (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
- BC Ferries
- SKGABC water classification maps that range from Class I (easiest/least risk) to Class IV (hardest, most exposed and most risk). Try to match the class level to your skill/comfort level.
Assumption of Risk
BCMT Map & Trail Disclaimer: The accuracy of the information provided on this site is not guaranteed. The information may be incomplete or incorrect. It is not intended as a substitute for detailed official Canadian marine navigation charts or other authorized maps and guides. Paddlers should seek information and advice from as many sources as possible, especially before departing for an unfamiliar paddling area.
Ocean paddling is a high-risk activity requiring skill and judgment. Weather and sea conditions are constantly changing. Even with the highest level of experience, it is not always possible to identify or control all risks and the potential for injury or loss of life cannot be eliminated. There are many uncontrolled hazards on foreshores and in rough coastal terrain that could result in serious personal injury.
Users of the information presented on this site assume all the risks associated with its use.
Our Marine Trail Safety Mandate is designed for general standards of safety.