A problem occurs when a kayak or canoe is found adrift with no one onboard. In most cases, there is no way of determining whether or not an individual may be in distress. As a result the United States Coast Guard and other organizations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year engaged in search and rescue operations where there was no actual emergency. It is for this reason that Operation Paddle Smart was started last year and continues in 2011 beginning April 1.
While traditional recreational or commercial vessels carry hull registration numbers and a vessel name that allow for the owner to be identified, kayaks and other forms of paddle craft lack a means of identification that allow the owner to be contacted.
In an effort to counter this problem, the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadron have teamed up to launch Operation Paddle Smart, a campaign aimed to benefit the maritime community.
The goal of Operation Paddle Smart is to educate small craft owners on water safety and provide them with a waterproof sticker that could be beneficial to everyone involved, whether they’re kayaking or part of a search and rescue operation.
Each sticker provides room for the small craft owner to list his or her name, phone number and cell phone number in case their craft is found drifting. This can greatly assist in the initial investigation of a possible search and rescue case.
“This program will benefit boaters and emergency responders through improvised vessel identification,” said Coast Guard Admiral Gary Blore, Thirteenth Coast Guard District Commander. “A tremendous effort and thousands of dollars are expended each year searching for lost boaters. Our goal is to educate paddle-sport enthusiasts on their responsibilities, how to stay safe and help emergency responders in the event of an actual rescue situation.”
“The benefit comes from being able to identify a real emergency, said Jeff Seifried, a member of the Paddle Smart team. “If the Coast Guard isn’t using resources searching for someone who is not missing, it’s going to save a lot of time and money. We’re not putting the Coast Guard rescue crews at any risk and at the same time, it could ease a family’s anxiety to know there isn’t any emergency.”
The Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and recreational boating specialists provide paddle smart safety messages and stickers at boating safety events, boating supply stores and partner agencies such as the United States Power Squadron.
Operation Paddle Smart could be the key to a safer and more enjoyable boating season. If paddle craft mariners use the stickers, mishaps such as searches for kayaks that are accidentially set adrift can be prevented.
According to the Coast Guard, the program is simple, beneficial and free. Team member Seifried explained benefits of the program, saying “I can’t come up with a reason why you wouldn’t want to use it. With a little bit of information you can help the Coast Guard find your property and save your life.”
This year Operation Paddle Smart will run from April 1 to November 1, and will once again be a focal point for boating and paddling organizations, retailers, and others to work together to promote paddlesport safety, as well as being an information source for all paddlers and small boaters.
As a reminder, paddlers on the waters of Massachusetts are required to wear a life jacket while underway through May 15; in Connecticut through May 30 and in Maine on the Saco River below the Hiram Dam through June.
For more information on Operation Paddle Smart: