PORTLAND, Maine — In addition to other important boating and paddle safety messages going into the summer season, such as always wear a life jacket and remember Maine coastal water temperatures can cause hypothermia even during the summer, the U.S. Coast Guard is advising operators of paddle craft to “Mark It.”
Placing a name and contact information inside a paddle craft can make is easier for emergency personnel to locate an owner to confirm whether an adrift craft was in use or got away, according to a Coast Guard press release.
When an unmanned kayak, canoe, or other unregistered watercraft is reported adrift or washed ashore, it is difficult to determine if the vessel simply drifted off a beach or if it was separated from its owner while in use. When there is uncertainty, the Coast Guard assumes someone may be in trouble, and responds.
“Until the Coast Guard can make a determination otherwise, we and other first responders dispatch rescue boats to investigate the craft and surrounding area for signs of distress,” said Lt. Nick Barrow, supervisor of the Search and Rescue command center in Portland, said in a press release. “A simple contact name and working phone numbers affixed to the vessel may be the key to associate a person to it, quickly make contact with an owner or family member and confirm whether it was actually in use; with the added benefit of the rightful owner getting it back.”
Through the Operation Paddle Smart program, the Coast Guard offers a free, weatherproof and reflective “If Found” decal, which can be placed in a visible location on the inside portion of a hull or cockpit. These decals may be obtained by emailing a request with name and address to email@example.com.
In 2012, the Coast Guard in the Northern New England region (Maine, New Hampshire, and Lake Champlain) responded to more than 50 calls of unmanned paddle craft reported adrift or washed ashore; all but one were not marked with identification.
On June 5, 2012, a kayak was reported washed ashore on Isle of Shoals, off Portsmouth, N.H. A Coast Guard rescue boat was launched to investigate, and found a phone number marked on the craft. This allowed Coast Guard watch standers to make contact with the owner, and confirm that the kayak was not in use and there was no distress. Two days earlier, the kayak had drifted away from the owner’s residence in Harpswell, approximately 55 nautical miles away.