Glossary of Terms


Bow- The Front of a boat. 

Broach: To pin sideways on a rock or to bridge between two rocks. 

CFS: Cubic feet per second, the standard unit for measuring the flow in a river.

Channel:  An area of a river defined by the banks, a bank and an island, a bank and a rock, or between two rocks.

Eddy: A calm spot formed downstream of a rock or other obstruction in the riverbed.  eddies may be still or may move upstream.  

Eddy turn: A maneuver that allows a paddler to stop in an eddy to scout, regroup, rest or play.  By using the current differential between the downstream current and the upstream-moving eddy water, a paddler can turn his boat quickly upstream after crossing the eddy line with speed at an appropriate angle.

Discharge: The amount of water being released from a dam or passing a specific cross-sectional area in a given time interval, measured in cubic feet per second. (cfs)

Fastwater- Featureless water moving downstream.  

Ferry: A maneuver that allows a paddler to get across the river without losing ground.  To ferry you point one end of the boat upstream at an angle to the current and paddle against it to neutralize it's force.

Flatwater:  Lakes, ponds or rivers with little or no current.

Meander: What a river does naturally when it hits flatter terrain.  

Moving water: Same as fastwater. 

Pillow: The water that piles up upstream of a rock or other obstruction, creating an area of boils, and folds that tends to keep boaters off the rock.  Not all rocks form pillows. 

Play-boating: A paddling style that emphasizes surfing holes and waves, enders and eddy-hopping. 

Portage: sometimes called a carry: To carry a boat around a rapid or other obstruction. 

Put-in: The location from which a trip is started. 

Rapid: A distinct stretch of whitewater that may last for as little as 50 feet or as much as a mile or more. 

River left: The left side of the river, looking downstream. 

River right: The right side of the river, looking downstream. 

Rock garden: A rapid with numerous rocks. 

Run: A section of river done as a single trip. 

S-Turn: A channel that bends first one way, then the other. 

Scout- To look at a rapid from the shore in order to decide both if and where to run. 

Self-rescue: Any of a number of techniques that allow a boater to help himself after a capsize.

Shuttle: To drive vehicles to the takeout in preparation for running a river. When the paddlers reach the end of the trip, the majority of paddlers will have their cars waiting for them at the take out. 

Standing wave: A wave formed by one of three conditions: a narrowing of the riverbed, a steepening of the riverbed, or an increase in the volume of water.  In contrast to ocean waves, standing waves donít generally move much upstream or downstream. 

Stern: The back of a boat. 

Strainer: Anything that allows water to pass through but keeps solid objects, such as boats and paddlers from doing so.  Especially common types of strainers are trees ( especially on the outside of bends). 

Surfing ( on a moving river)- A method of riding a wave or a hole in which a boat is made to stay in one place by careful placement on the river feature in question.

Swamp: To take on water in an open boat. 

Takeout: The location at which a trip ends. 

Tidal rip: A rapid formed by a tidal current being squeezed into a narrow opening.   

Water reading: A skill that allows a boater to know whatís downstream by picking up subtle hints from water formations and currents. 

Watershed: The area drained by a river.  

Whitewater: Water moving downstream with rocks and other obstructions that form such features as waves, holes, eddies and drops.  Whitewater Classifications



Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I need to contact the leader to say I am going on a trip ?  For most trips there is no need to contact the leader to say you are planning on attending, unless it says RSVP Trip (*see below). Just show up at the put-in with appropriate gear and boat. PFD's (life vests)  are required on all RICKA and Blackstone Paddlers Trips. The PFD must be worn in the manner intended by the manufacturer, zipped and/or buckled.  When planning your arrival time, please allow enough time to get your boat and gear ready to paddle in time for launch time. For a list of suggested gear- click on gear.

*What is a RSVP trip?  A RSVP trip is a trip where it is mandatory that you contact the leader to tell the leader that you are planning on paddling with the group.  A RSVP trip will be clearly stated.

How long will the trip take ?  It is hard to judge how long a trip will take.  We paddle as fast as the slowest paddler in the group.

What size boat is considered a long boat ? A sea kayak is usually defined as a boat, 15 feet or longer. Some flatwater trips will state when a sea kayak or a long boat is not appropriate. Very narrow waterways with an abundance of twists and turns are a challenge if not an impossibility for a paddler in a long boat. We do not discriminate, many of us have long and short boats and find it helpful to know which boat would be best for that given trip.

What size boat is considered a short boat? Short boats are boats like the Otters, Kiwis and Walden Paddlers and others, boats up to 15 feet.

What is a wet suit?  A wetsuit is a neoprene suit that provides some protection against cold water.  Water does get between the suit and your body, but will warm to your body temperature, fighting off hypothermia. Many paddlers find a Farmer Jane or a Farmer John to be comfortable while paddling.  A Farmer Jane/John is a wetsuit that is sleeveless, so not to interfere with arm movement. Off season trips will require either a wetsuit or a drysuit. 

What is a dry suit? A drysuit offers optimal protection against cold water.  The suit is sealed at the neck, feet or ankles and wrists with latex gaskets that are completely waterproof. It is suggested that you wear layers under the drysuit for warmth.

What is a dry bag? A dry bag can be purchased at any kayak shop or sport store. It is a bag that is completely waterproof.  During the transitions between seasons, a change of clothes is required in a waterproof bag.  

Why is cotton clothing not recommended? When dressing for paddling... avoid cotton.  Polyesters like cool max are recommended. Polypro, fleece and polyesters are quick drying and even when wet will help you retain body heat. These fabrics wick the moisture away from your body and are used for all seasons. Cotton is very slow drying and keeps the moisture close to your body. It is quite easy to find clothing in appropriate fabrics.  They are available in all kayak shops, sport shops and even Walmart has them now.

What does launch time mean? Launch time is the time we put in the water and begin our trip. It is not arrival time. Please allow time to gather your boat and gear before launch time.  If you need help getting your boat off of your vehicle, please ask someone.  That is just one of the many benefits of paddling with a group !

How do I get on the e-mail list to be notified of trips and cancellations ? Send an e-mail to and write e-mail list in the subject line. No obligation, cancel at anytime.

And if you are new to paddling with us ...Welcome !