What’s on Your Checklist?

When I was writing about bow & stern lines, I had a line in there that my wife deleted. I had said that I know myself well enough to fear that I may get to talking to someone and forget to tie my stern line. She pointed out that she and our paddling partner just don’t leave it up to me. We have a system to make sure everything is stowed properly. Just like we have a kayak prep checklist to make sure we don’t forget anything. If you don’t already, you should think about having one, too. It’s easy to forget things that we do on occasion, but it’s easy to remember if we do the same things – in the same sequence – every time.

Talk it Through

Here’s what works for us: one person ties the boat to the rack. Another person checks to ensure it’s tight/secure. Then one person secures the tail-end of the strap. Each of us says what we’re doing as we go. We’ve gotten used to the cadence of telling each other what we’re doing. And we speak up to say what’s ready for someone else to check it. The rhythm sounds “off” if we miss a step. We remind each other to say what we’re doing if we lapse into silence.

If you’re not lucky enough to have a paddling partner, don’t worry. Non-kayakers probably already think you’re crazy. You may (like us) have some really interesting fashion choices going on while you’re loading up. Go ahead and talk to yourself as you load your gear and secure your kayak. Anyone that thinks you’re crazy for doing that just doesn’t get it.

Check it Off

We also have a real kayak prep checklist that we use. It’s specifically for the night before a paddle and in the morning as we’re heading out the door. We use Google Keep to manage our list. We like that either of us can check items off the list as we go, and it has everything we’re planning on packing.

Screenshot of checklist for kayaking

You may notice that there’s a lot of gear missing from our list. We’ve managed to find a routine where most of the gear (paddles, PFDs, first aid kits, compasses, spray skirts, etc.) is actually really easy to remember.¬†We have a process where we spray down the majority of our gear and hang it in the garage after we paddle. As I’m prepping for a paddle, I go to the area in the garage where the kayaking gear lives and basically pull everything off the wall and put it in the trunk of the car – easy, peasy. Finding the motivation to actually spray it down and put it away after a long day on the water? That’s a little harder.

The Kayak Prep Checklist

I had planned on sharing a template of our Keep list, but Google apparently has not yet provided a way to share templates in Keep yet. But if you copy and paste from a Google Doc (see ours embedded below, or click here for our Final Kayak Prep List), you can create your own list.

This is the system that has worked out for us, and that we’ve improved and iterated over several years of training paddles with our paddling partner. What is your system? How do you make it work for you?

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