Although sea kayaking is a perfect way to get away from it all, it is also governed by certain laws and regulations that you must know and observe:
Under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 Transport Canada is the government department responsible for pleasure boating. Sea kayak is subject to the Small Vessel Regulations under the Act. Two categories of sea kayaks are targeted by the regulations: pleasure crafts not over 6 metres in length and pleasure crafts over 6 metres in length but not over 8 metres in length.
In order to abide by the regulations, you should keep the following equipment on board:
Boats 6 metres long and less
Boats between 6 and 8 metres long (26' 3"):
Note: Boats are not required to be equipped with flares if they are used on rivers, canals or lakes in which they can at no time be more than one mile from shore.
The Collision Regulations are part of the Canada Shipping Act, which is under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada and also applies to sea kayaks. It is important to follow the law to the letter when kayaking in areas used by other pleasure craft or commercial shipping.
The Collision Regulations state, "Every vessel shall use all available means to avoid collisions." They describe passing procedures, distances to respect, maximum speeds, and the use of light and sound-signalling devices.
Various types of navigational aids (buoys) are used to help get your bearings and identify channels, isolated dangers, and special areas (diving sites, anchorage, swimming areas, etc.). It is thus essential that you be able to recognize them.
When Sea Kayaking, Put Yourself in the Position of Other Users
Remember, for example, that even in bright, calm conditions a kayak isn't visible more than two nautical miles away, the distance a large vessel covers in four minutes.
Keep in mind that powerboat operators and the crews of cargo vessels riding high on the water can't see anything on the water less than half a mile in front of them because their view is obstructed by the bow of the boat.
Understand that even though a sea kayak allows you to manoeuvre and change direction quickly, other users can't be expected to anticipate your actions or know how skilled you are.
Complying with the Collision Regulations is like complying with the Highway Code. It's a win-win situation.
Kayakers will be able to enjoy their sport in safety while earning the respect of the marine community.
The Radiotelephone Regulations are administered by Industry Canada. All radio operators must hold an operator's certificate (lifetime issue). If you go kayaking in coastal waters on a regular basis, a radiotelephone should be part of your basic equipment..
In addition to the regulations
A kayak is small in comparison with sailboats or other motorized pleasure crafts, fishing boats or with commercial vessels. Moreover, kayakers should maintain a preventive attitude and avoid putting themselves in situations where they cannot be seen by other boats.
The kayaker must be aware that his or her craft is very difficult to see on the water - and in any type of weather. When the kayak is in the hollow of a wave it becomes almost entirely invisible. A kayak has very little speed and should therefore not be taken on channels or waterways. When crossing through large bodies of water, particularly at river mouths where sea traffic is heavy, extreme care is advised. The safest place for kayaking is along the shoreline.
If an approaching boat does not seem to recognize the kayak, the kayaker should signal his/her presence using sound (horn or whistle) or visual signals. The paddle is without doubt the piece of equipment with which the kayaker can best draw attention to him/herself.
Clothing and PFDs should have very bright colours. Even if new colours have been approved, orange is still the colour that is the most visible on the water in all conditions. Other ways of attracting attention in emergency situations are: a flag mounted on a branch, visual distress signals, flags, horns, and signalling mirrors.