JUNEAU - The U.S. Coast Guard is urging all boaters using kayaks, canoes, dinghies, or any other non-motorized and unregistered vessel, to participate in Operation Paddle Smart, a volunteer identification program designed to help the USCG and state boating agencies determine the actuality of distress situations and the appropriate response needed.
When the USCG receives a report or discovers an unattended kayak, canoe, dinghy or other non-motorized vessel, it's often assumed the owner is in trouble and needs assistance until information can support otherwise. But a waterproof, reflective and self-adhesive sticker with basic owner information can allow search and rescue coordinators to quickly identify the vessel's owner and possible whereabouts, helping determine the best course of action.
Unlike motorized vessels, there is no requirement for kayaks, canoes or any paddle boat to be registered. Each year the USCG and state agencies spend thousands of dollars and man-hours conducting searches involving non-motorized vessels found adrift because they were not properly tied down or were abandoned.
"In the absence of the registration requirement for paddle craft this sticker can help expedite rescuers to locate you," said Mike Folkerts, Coast Guard District 17 Recreational Boating Safety Specialist. "Paddlers should always file a float plan with a friend or relative."
Any owner of a boat that has come loose from its mooring or is missing should report it to the Coast Guard. When a vessel is found with identification, not only can the owner be quickly contacted or determined someone may be in distress, the owner can also quickly reclaim their boat.
The Coast Guard recommends that every boater carry the following safety items:
A Coast Guard-approved life jacket
A handheld VHF marine radio with extra batteries
A first aid kit packed in a watertight container
A signaling kit (mirror, whistle and day/night flares)
Warm and water resistant clothing appropriate for Alaska's extreme environments
Anyone interested in acquiring a Paddle Smart Identification Sticker should contact their local Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla or Mike Folkerts, District 17 Recreational Boating Safety Specialist at 463-2297.