Warmer weather has inspired me to think about rounding up my paddling gear (well, until it snowed again last week). I started off doing a mental inventory of what I had to do.
Continuing that thought process in the hopes of turning it into action, I began making a list of what I’d have to do once I found all my paddling gear.
Here’s what I came up with. Take away what you will; I’ve only been at this for 15 years or so.
Your paddling clothing probably needs at least a rinse, at worst a good soaking and cleaning. Dig out your paddling jacket(s) and read the laundering tag. You may need to get a nondetergent cleaner such as Nixwax if your gear is breathable. Don’t even think about fabric softener; it will clog the breathable pores. Check wrist and neck gaskets for cracking. See small cracks? Replace the gasket.
After drying according to instructions, you may want to spray some clean water on the outer fabric. Does it wet out? Time for a Durable Water Repellent treatment (Nixwax and others make them) to restore the fabric’s ability to keep water at bay and bead up on the surface. Some of these products wash in, others are sprayed on.
A good place to start online for paddling apparel care is the NRS website (http://www.nrsweb.com), where you’ll see McNett products for drysuit latex seals, zipper care and cleaning, wetsuit wash, 303 Fabric Protectant as well as 303 Protectant for the rest of your gear, and Kokatat apparel repair kits.
Wet suits always need a good bath, unless your last outing was at the chlorinated pool — and at the time you took the time to hose it off with fresh water, didn’t you? Ditto for your neoprene booties, which probably are funkier than you think. Wash them! Please! There are detergents designed for neoprene goods.
Spray skirts should be inspected to be sure the cockpit bungee is intact and not frayed. Check your paddle’s ferrules for tight fit. Rinse out any grit or salt, and make sure they slide together easily yet snugly. Are your drip rings still in good shape?
Safety gear such as your paddle float, bilge pump and rescue stirrup should be inspected closely. If that float bag is older, blow it up and be sure it retains air. Your bilge pump should operate freely and easily. I used a drop or two of mineral oil to free up one of the pumps. It seemed to work well.
Go through your first aid kit and replace items such as bandages you may have used. Ditto for the rest of the kit.
Make sure your strobe light has a new battery. Same’s true for your flashlight in the front pocket, and be sure your VHF radio is either fully charged or has new batteries. That waterproof case you use for your cell phone should be tested for waterproofness as well. Your GPS batteries also should be checked.
Open your chart case, take out the charts and make sure they’re all legible. Replace sketchy ones. Are your compasses in good shape? The one in your personal floatation device? The one on deck? Where’s your fog horn?
While you’re pawing through your PFD’s pockets, look it over closely. Any holes in the fabric? Think about getting a new one. Everything look OK? Great, now might be a good time to give it a bath. Is your whistle still tethered to the jacket (not the zipper pull)? Check that line.
Check the expiration date on your flares. I’ll bet you’ll find they’re overdue for replacement — mine are. There’s an article by Wayne Spivak, branch chief, National Training Department United States Coast Guard Auxiliary at http://www.thefishingline.com/getting.htm that will help you with these items.
After you’ve cleaned, sorted, repaired, inventoried and put your gear in your duffel, it’s time to tackle your boat. More on that later, it’s Miller time.
P.S. If you are planning a camping trip and use freeze-dried foods, you may experience shortages at your favorite outfitter. I learned the other day that Nitro-Pak Preparedness Center Inc. of Heber City, Utah, the largest mail-order company in the nation specializing in freeze-dried food and emergency preparedness supplies, is telling its customers that “all Mountain House and Nitro-Pak food storage No. 10 cans are in extremely high demand due to national and world current economic uncertainty and inflation fears … . Most Mountain House dealers have been been cut off and receive no food, period. Supplies are very scarce. Like Disneyland, the line is long but still slowly moving. Please be patient. This is a line you do not want to get out of!”