What's the difference between a kayak and a canoe?
It’s all about how you sit and the paddle you use. In a kayak you normally sit with your legs in front of you and in a canoe you normally kneel. Both can be for one person or more people. A kayak can be open or closed whereas a canoe is always open deck. Another difference is the paddle - canoes use a paddle with one blade and kayaks use a paddle with two blades at either end.
What types of kayaks and canoes can I use?
There are lots of different types including:
- Sit-on-Top Kayaks – great for first time paddlers and very stable on the water
- Canadian canoes – typically open and with good load carrying space
- Sea kayaks – long sleek kayaks for 1 or 2 people with a closed deck, and stowage spaces. Suited for longer journeys in challenging conditions
- Touring kayaks - tend to be shorter than sea kayaks and best suited to shorter trips
- Whitewater or river kayaks – with flatter and shorter hulls designed for quick and responsive manoeuvring
- Inflatable kayaks – ideal for leisure paddling and able to be easily packed away for transporting
Before venturing out on the water, always seek professional advice about which is best for you and what you plan to do.
This information mainly covers kayaking - is the same for canoes?
Kayaks and canoes can cover much of the same ground, but there are different type of kayaks for different uses – e.g. sea, touring and river. Canoes tend to be best suited to relatively calm waters like lochs and canals as they are open top and could readily capsize in swell or rough river conditions. If you’re a keen canoeist, we hope you still find this page useful. And if you can suggest any canoe routes in Argyll & the Isles, we’d love to hear from you!
Can I use a canoe on the open sea?
In theory, canoes can be used on any body of water, from lakes to canals, rivers to estuaries. In practice, they can be used by very skilled canoeists with extreme caution in the right conditions but we do not recommend it.
Is it legal to kayak and canoe anywhere in Scotland?
Yes, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code allows you to roam and swim relatively freely in inland and coastal waters provided that you do so responsibly. This means it is legal to kayak and canoe in Argyll’s sea, lochs and rivers. Access should always be taken from open (as opposed to enclosed) land. It is important to consider where you are launching from and, if you have travelled by car or van, that this is parked responsibly while you’re out on the water.
Is kayaking and canoeing safe?
No water-based activity is 100% safe and you should always have a healthy respect for the water. You can minimise the risks by reading and following the safety advice provided by British Canoeing, planning ahead and exercising caution at all times. Never paddle alone.
What equipment do I need?
As a minimum, you’ll need a kayak or canoe, buoyancy aid and paddle. If you are paddling in the sea, tidal or white waters, it is sensible to wear a helmet. If you are using an open top vessel, a wetsuit is a good idea. You should also bring a waterproof bag in which to store your phone. You should stow this carefully so that it is easily accessible.
What size kayak or canoe do I need?
Normally, the longer and narrower the kayak, the faster and straighter it will go. This is ideally suited for sea conditions. Wider and shorter kayaks are more stable and easier to turn but won’t be as fast. If you are a beginner to kayaking, starting with a short canoe is probably best for you. We strongly recommend that you get professional advice when buying or renting a kayak or canoe.
Can I hire kayaking and canoeing kit?
You can hire kit from a few places locally. Some offer equipment only while others will only hire equipment as part of an organised activity.
What do I do if I get into trouble or see another kayaker or canoer experiencing difficulties?
Call the coastguard: Call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard in an emergency. (If you don’t have a signal, your phone will try to connect you to the nearest network.)
It is important to have your mobile phone kept in a waterproof bag and ideally on a cord attached to you.