Kayaking mishaps point out need for safety

Posted: Friday, September 01, 2000

Two recent kayaking mishaps, including one that resulted in a fatality, prompted the U.S. Coast Guard recently to remind kayakers and boaters to take safety precautions.

In one incident, the Coast Guard reported a man left Whittier Aug. 20 in a rented kayak for a three-day trip. The rental company reported him overdue Aug. 23. Coast Guard searchers found the kayaker dead at the shoreline in Whitestone Harbor next to his kayak, which had been damaged by pounding on the rocky shore.

The hull was split, the rudder had been ripped off, and the kayak was half-submerged. The kayaker was wearing his life jacket when found. He had departed Whittier with a spare paddle and bilge pump, but without flares, a dry suit, or a VHF radio. Weather conditions on Aug. 23 were 35-knot winds and very rough seas.

In a second incident, a Coast Guard Station Ketchikan boat crew was returning from a training mission Aug. 23 when they spotted a life-jacketed kayaker in the water near her capsized kayak, which she was unable to re-board. A second kayaker was at the scene, but could not assist because she had lost her paddle. The Coast Guard crew rescued the paddler from the water, retrieved her kayak, and returned her safely to the pier in Ketchikan. They also retrieved the second kayaker's paddle, allowing her to make it safely back to shore.

The Coast Guard said paddlers should wear their life jackets, which increase chances of survival when in the water and provide buoyancy while attempting to re-board a swamped boat.

Kayaking experience in one location does not necessarily mean that paddlers know how to kayak safely in other locations, according to the Coast Guard, which also urged paddlers to have a means of communication, such as a hand-held VHF-FM radio.

Other safety practices include using a "paddle leash" to prevent the paddle suddenly slipping away; paddling with a buddy: and practicing for emergencies.



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