The waters of Indian Arm are for the most part fairly calm, and relatively safe. Protected from ocean swells and storms, as well as having little current, Indian Arm is a great place to learn how to paddle. However if it were completely safe we would not need to write a section on hazards. Remember that whenever you paddle in an ocean environment, weather can be unpredictable, and can change quickly.
It seems that experienced paddlers exercise more caution than rookies. Experienced paddlers through their own education, and experience have become aware of the consequences of mistakes while on the water. A good day of paddling in Indian Arm surrounded by spectacular scenery can very quickly become a serious tragedy if you capsize. Nobody ever expects to capsize.
Anytime you inadvertently end up in the water hypothermia becomes a threat. The severity of hypothermia is determined by a combination of the air and water temperature, your proximity to shore, your ability to re-enter your boat, and your clothing. Water temperature in Indian Arm is cold most of the year. It warms slightly in mid-summer. If you are un-able to get to shore, or re-enter your kayak you are at serious risk. Bear in mind that much of the shoreline of Indian Arm is very steep and difficult to access. All kayakers should be familiar with capsize recovery techniques, especially if you are planning full day outings or overnight trips.
This is probably the biggest hazard especially on weekends in July and August. During certain times of the year it can feel as if you are the only person on Indian Arm. On busy weekends crossing the channel can be a hair-raising experience.
The weather is most unpredictable during the winter from late October to April and early May. This is not to say that un-expected squalls do not happen during the summer.
During late fall, winter and early spring strong, cold outflow (northerly) winds can whip down Indian Arm and create treacherous conditions. During these winds there are not many sheltered areas.
These summer winds are very predictable on a sunny warm day. Typical to any fjord or inlet an afternoon wind picks-up and blows from the south up Indian Arm. These winds can surprise inexperienced paddlers who travel 1-hour north up Indian Arm and find they have to paddle back into a head wind when they are already tired. These winds also affect paddlers returning from overnight trips to Granite Falls and Bishop Creek.
The currents of Indian Arm are pretty mild. At most they will reach 1 knot. This would have the effect of reducing your travelling speed, but most paddlers can make headway against such a current. They would have greater effect combined with a strong head wind at the end of a long days paddle. The area between Grey Rocks Island and Hamber Island is the narrowest and shallowest part of Indian Arm and consequently sees the greatest current. Burrard Inlet towards the Iron Worker Memorial Bridge has extreme currents of 5 - 6 knots, with cross currents from outflow of the Seymour River. Passing underneath this bridge you enter Vancouver Harbour where non-motorized traffic is prohibited. This area is extremely dangerous.
Remember, always check the tide table before heading out.