The Villages Canoe and Kayak Club

Member Guide

Revised April 2012

Trip Objective:

The primary objective in planning canoe and kayak trips will be to offer club members a safe, diverse, exciting and memorable paddling adventure into the beautiful area waters. The club's guidelines are to keep these trips within a two-hour driving distance of The Villages and to keep the length of the river trip to approximately 10 miles or 4 hours of “on-the-water” time. Occasional multi-day trips may be arranged.

Where we paddle:

The waters of Florida offer magnificent and varied scenery, with opportunities to observe a wide variety of wildlife in a natural setting. You may see an endless variety of birds, river otters, snakes, manatees, alligators, bear, deer, fox, wild monkeys, all kinds of turtles, fish of every size and lots of insects. The water may be crystal clear, spring fed or dark with tannin. The flora varies widely from season to season and is always beautiful.

We typically choose rivers, with a moderate current of 1-3 miles per hour, tight curves and an occasional challenge. There may be deadfall or obstructions to circumvent, and some marshy area or wooded shores. While there may be spots for beaching, many times there will be no take out locations for the entire trip and paddlers must remain in their boats for the duration. The Club may also paddle a river with more difficult conditions and a current over 3 miles per hour, strong sweeps, steep banks, possible rapids and obstructions throughout. Conditions can vary widely, depending on rainfall. The Trip Plans on our website will provide the latest possible updates and a recommended skill requirement.

Like most canoe and kayak trips, you must be ready to paddle against the current, carry over an obstruction, encounter wind, rain and possible lightning. The bathroom is often in the woods. Lunch may be on the river, most times at a scenic setting, sometimes in your boat. You may capsize and get wet!

Who can be a Member:

Membership: Membership in The Villages Canoe and Kayak club is open to all Village Residents possessing a valid Villages ID Card, including seasonal renters. See the Club By-laws for full information and restrictions. Annual Dues are set by the Board of Directors and cover the period of May through April. Dues are not prorated. Dues must be current to participate in all Club events.

Guests: Members may bring one guest to a non-paddling event providing the guest meets all Village requirements. Guests must also sign both the Villages and Club waivers.

Paddling Participant Requirements:

Participants are required to have the strength and conditioning to do a 10 mile trip in a 4 hour period. It is expected that you have the skills required to handle a canoe or kayak as defined in the By-Laws:

-- To properly enter and exit a boat without assistance

-- To successfully launch without assistance

-- To perform an assisted rescue in the event of a capsize

Members must complete a Membership application and sign both a standard Villages Waiver or Liability (regardless of whether you have signed one for another club) and a VCKC waiver of liability prior to participating in any trip.

Trip Safety:

All participants must abide by all applicable regulations for operating watercraft in Florida, including wearing an approved personal flotation device. Outfitters provide approved equipment with all rentals.

Coast Guard regulations require all boats to have Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) for each passenger. VCKC requires each club member to PROPERLY WEAR a PFD when on a club trip. Safety and skills classes are available through local outfitters and are recommended to club members for training in assisted and self rescue techniques as well as proper entry and exit procedures and paddle strokes. Information regarding skill requirements and river conditions will be communicated through a written trip plan before each trip so that members are able to judge their own skill level against the stated requirements.

Tips for paddling safety:

  • Paddle with a buddy
  • Know capsize rescue techniques and practice them
  • Watch the weather closely - before you start and after you launch
  • Never paddle in conditions which will stretch you beyond your comfort zone.
  • Improve your paddling skills
  • Ensure that you have the proper emergency and safety equipment. See recommended items to bring at the end of this document and in the Trip Plan.
  • Know and accept your paddling skills and physical abilities

Joining a Trip:

Trip Plans with a description of the river, distances, times, skill requirements and destinations are placed on our website several weeks in advance. Trip announcements will be done via an e-mail to all active members. A Trip briefing will be presented at the monthly meetings.

The following steps are required to sign up for a Club Trip:

  1. Read and carefully assess personal skills against the Trip Plan skill level requirement.
  2. Sign up for trip via link in the Trip Plan
  3. If renting a boat, contact the outfitter and reserve/pay for rental with the outfitter.
  4. If any fees are being collected by the club for the trip, click on link in the Trip Plan to pay through PayPal before the trip.

Payments must be received by the club meeting date prior to the scheduled event.

If you need a paddling partner, it is your responsibility to arrange this before the trip or by joining up with others at the launch site. Boat rental charges vary but are negotiated by the trip planner and typically range from $30 to $55. Additional costs, like parking, launch fees, lunches, etc., may apply to certain trips.

On the River:

All trips include a 'Shore Talk' given by the Trip Leader and possibly the outfitter. Information will be shared about up-to-date river conditions, safety concerns, rest stops, specific navigational information, special or historical sites as well as any directions needed to reach the take out point.

Some trips will require setting up shuttles. Information regarding the set up procedure will be included in the trip plan as well as discussed prior to trip. Please pay close attention to all the information shared to avoid getting lost on the river, missing trip highlights and to arrive at the take out reasonably close to the estimated time to facilitate shuttles, as well as lunch reservations.

Be considerate of your fellow paddlers, so that all might have a chance to enjoy the beauty of the river in a calm and peaceful manner. The group will spread out, depending on the skills and interests of the individuals, but travel with a paddle partner and/or keep another boat in view. This is important for safety purposes. Remember three blasts on your whistle will alert others to a problem.

Trip Guidelines/Cancellation:

Trips and departure times will be scheduled to maximize the weather conditions as well as travel time to put-in points. Weather issues that can impact the quality and safety of the trip can come up quickly and cause a cancellation with very short notice. Cooler temperatures or rain are not automatically reasons to cancel the trip. Your trip leaders will monitor the weather forecasts for the day of the trip and will notify you as soon as possible, but it could be as late as the morning of the trip when a decision is made to cancel. For these reasons it is very important to maintain a current telephone number and e-mail address with the club.

Member Cancellation Policy:

There is a minimum of a 48 hour cancellation notice required to ensure a full refund of any paid fees through the club's website via Paypal. For those renting equipment become acquainted with the outfitters cancellation policy in case you must cancel.

Late Cancellation/No Show Policy:

Each trip plan defines a Launch/Put in site and Departure time. The trip leader will check in all members of the trip at the launch/put in site. If, at the last minute, you cannot make the trip, please contact the trip coordinator. Be considerate of your fellow club members and notify the event coordinator. The outfitters cancellation policy may result in loss of rental boat cost.

Waivers: There are several waivers required for club members to sign:

  1. The Villages Recreation Department requires all residents and guests to sign a Villages Waiver. This is required only once and is stored in the Club records.
  2. The Village Canoe and Kayak Club requires VCKC members and guests to sign a waiver specific to the activities of the club. This is signed on an annual basis and is stored in the Club records.
  3. The outfitter or concessionaire that provides equipment and services to members most often has a waiver which must be signed before the departure on a trip.

Liability Insurance:

The VCKC carries a general liability policy that protects the officers, trip leaders and club members during organized activities of the club. This policy provides liability and excess medical coverage as well as legal expenses should a claim or litigation be brought against the club or one of its members.

Skills Ratings:

These definitions are offered to help you identify your skill level in relationship to the club trip guidelines.

Novice Learning basic forward and sweep strokes. Good balance/stability in boat. No real experience with current, waves or rough water. Able to accomplish a wet exit .
Beginner Able to perform forward and sweep strokes, basic sculling stroke. Good balance/stability in boat. Some experience in light current, and waves. Limited experience with navigation around dead fall. No real experience with rescue techniques. Ability to paddle steadily for 2-3 hours.
Advanced Beginner Use of sweep strokes, turning strokes, sideways strokes and some ability to navigate around minor dead fall. Able to handle mild current, waves, and some rough water. Able to accomplish a self rescue and assisted rescue. Ability to paddle steadily for 3-4 hours.
Intermediate Proficient use of sweep strokes, turning, strokes, sideways strokes and accomplished ability to navigate around dead fall. Able to handle strong current, waves and rough water. Able to accomplish a self rescue and assisted rescue. Ability to utilize a tow rope for rescue. Ability to paddle steadily for 4-6 hours.
Advanced Polished fluid strokes. Able to handle surf, strong current, high waves, and class 1 to 3 rapids. Eskimo roll and rescues in rough water. Ability to paddle steadily for 6+ hours

River Ratings:

This highly subjective rating provides general guidelines for each trip. Please be aware that water levels, tides, and weather conditions can greatly affect any trip.

Trip Difficulty Type of Water Waterway conditions Typical Total Trip Distance Paddling Conditions Minimum Skills Suggested Typical Length of paddle
Easy - suitable for all paddlers with average physical condition River, protected By shoreline Mostly straight, few obstacles to avoid. Good water level. 5-6 miles Wind <5, no waves, flat water Novice 2-3 hours
Intermediate - better than average physical condition is desired due to trip duration. River protected by shore. Open water i.e. Lake, gulf, ocean River protected by shore. Open water i.e. Lake, gulf, ocean 7-12 miles Wind <10, some waves, moving current Intermediate 3-4 hours
Difficult - competent, experienced boat handling and very good physical condition is desired due to swift currents, obstructions, and long trip duration River protected by shore. Open water i.e. Lake, gulf, ocean Numerous twists, turns, many obstacles, shallow water, swift current causes issues. 13+ miles Wind <15, breaking waves, strong swift current Advanced 5+ hours

Scenery Ratings:

Another subjective rating based on personal preference for natural unspoiled beauty. While some developments may be very attractive, these areas would generally be rated poor to fair as they detract from the natural beauty.

Code Description
Poor Just plain ugly due to human development and environmental destruction
Fair Substantial development can been seen during most of the trip route. Some interesting wild areas remain.
Good Generally a nice place to paddle with limited human development
Very Good Very little development along the trip route. The route offers great vistas and many interesting areas.
Excellent Pristine Florida wilderness. The best. A truly wonderful place to dip a paddle.


Recommended Items to Bring:

Be sure to store all items in watertight containers as well as secure in your boat.

  • Water (minimum - 2 quarts of water per person)
  • Hat Sunglasses Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Personal Flotation Device - Required by Coast Guard - (outfitters provide with rentals)
  • Whistle (required by coast guard)
  • Rescue rope (minimum 10 ft)
  • Bailer and sponge
  • Snacks in waterproof containers

Clothing suggestions

  • Water shoes
  • Long sleeve shirt for sun protection
  • Quick dry clothes


  • Paddle gloves
  • First aid kit
  • Camera (in a water proof container)
  • Cell Phone (in a water proof container)
  • Binoculars
  • Leave a change of (dry) clothing in the car with a towel