Have a Trip Plan
Create a float plan and leave it behind with responsible person, so they know where you are going and when you expect to return. Let them know how long overdue you can be before they should start to worry. Prepare for the unexpected and think about contingencies when planning a trip.
Make sure you're proficient at self rescue techniques and carry a survival kit including extra warm layers, food, water, and emergency fire starter to help prevent hypothermia. Know the skill level of yourself and your partners, know your limits, and paddle within them.
Everyone must have a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device. Wear it! It is extremely difficult to put on in the water, and your life may depend on it. Be sure it can be tied or zipped, and is the proper size, so it will not slip off in the water. Be sure your kayak or SUP is in good repair. A suggested list of gear includes, but is not limited to: first aid kit, extra paddle, self-contained stove, insect repellent, compass, 50 feet of lashing line, maps, rain gear, extra food in case of bad weather, tent, sleeping bag and pad, bailer sponge or bucket, waterproof matches, and dry storage containers.
Carry a marine VHF radio - cell phone coverage is not available in much of the park. In case of emergency, park rangers and/or the Coast Guard can be reached on Marine Channel 16. During the summer, in Aialik Bay, there is regular tour boat traffic, who also monitor Channel 16 or 72. Consider carrying a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) for extended trips.
Tides can affect the navigability of certain waters. The difference between high and low tides in Kenai Fjords can be as much as 15 feet.
- Have a current tide book with you and know how to read and use it.
Pederson, and other local lagoons, can be very tricky and dangerous and should only be entered around the high tide.
Be sure to ask for local advice about these potentially dangerous locations.
- When making camp, be sure to store your gear well above the high tide line and tie off your boat.
Canoeists and kayakers should be familiar with area weather patterns and consult the marine forecast before embarking. Most marine radios will also provide local weather forecasts, allowing you to stay informed as conditions change.
Ocean storms can sweep through the Kenai Fjords any time of year. Good rain gear and extra food supplies are a must since weather may delay a charter pick-up for days. You may have to wait out storms for several days. A properly prepared party can usually wait out bad weather and thus may be a few days overdue with no cause for alarm.
- Be prepared to adjust your schedule due to the weather and allow for weather days during your preparation.
- Don’t make your schedule too tight; allow extra time for delays and always have a backup plan.
- Better to get home late than to risk paddling through potentially deadly seas.
- When in doubt, stay on the beach.
Landing Your Kayak
Avoid landing on beaches within two miles of a tidewater glacier. Sudden waves from calving ice can slam the shore with surprising power, sweeping away kayaks and gear stored well above the apparent high tide line.
When choosing a landing/camping site, use clues such as driftwood accumulation, beach steepness and cobble size to judge what the wave action is likely to be in storm conditions. Make sure you will be able to launch from the beach in the morning if the wind or weather changes overnight.
One of the joys of traveling by kayak is getting a water's eye perspective of the amazing wildlife, including whales, sea lions, seals and more. For the safety of yourself and the wildlife, it is important to maintain appropriate distances at all times. As a general rule, remain at least 100 yards (100 meters) away from marine mammals. All marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA), facilitated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For more specifics, consult NOAA's Codes for Conduct.