Coast Guard Encourages “Best Safety Practices” for Kayakers, Windsurfers

SAN FRANCISCO – The Coast Guard is reminding kayakers, windsurfers, kite surfers, and all others who engage in recreational water sports to take basic precautions before heading out on the water, and to be aware of the ways they can assist the Coast Guard with search and rescue efforts.

At approximately 8:30 a.m., on Monday, September 1st, the Coast Guard received notification from a good Samaritan sailboat that there was an overturned kayak floating 2.5 nautical miles west of Point Montara. The operator of the vessel did not see any people in the water, nor was he/she they aware of how long the kayak had been overturned in the water.

Coast Guard Sector San Francisco immediately issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast to alert vessels in the area of a possible person in the water in distress. Air Station San Francisco launched an HH-65 “Dolphin” Helicopter to begin searching in the vicinity of the kayak. Additionally, a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat from Coast Guard Station Golden Gate launched and began searching in the area as well, assisted by an asset from the Pillar Point Harbormaster. After completing an initial search pattern, the Motor Lifeboat crew recovered the kayak, searching for any identifying markings, and found none. In addition to conducting search patterns in the last known position of the kayak, the “Dolphin” Helicopter and Motor Lifeboat conducted searches along the shoreline from Pillar Point to Ocean Beach with negative results.

Sector San Francisco also contacted numerous kayak rental companies in the area to determine if any missing watercraft or unaccounted for persons had been reported. The search was suspended when all actions yielded no new information, and the possibility of distress had been ruled out.

In a similar situation, on August 9th, there was a report of a kite surf board floating 500 yards off Fort Mason. An HH-65 “Dolphin” Helicopter from Air Station San Francisco and a response boat from Station Golden Gate launched on the case, and were assisted in their search efforts by Coast Guard Auxiliary Mobile Unit 3 and Marin County Rescue 1. Searches in the Bay yielded no results. By interviewing by-standers, it was determined that the kite surfer had departed the water safely around the same time the board was discovered floating in the water.

Similar cases involving canoes, rowboats, and other unregistered small craft have occurred up and down the California coast.

By taking a few simple precautions, kayakers can help ensure their own safety, and help the Coast Guard avoid unnecessary search efforts. By ensuring that their name and contact information is written on or securely attached internally (and waterproofed) to the equipment, Coast Guard personnel can more easily determine if the owner is in distress, should the equipment simply be lost or stolen. In the event that recreational kayakers or surfers become separated from their equipment or board, they are highly encouraged to report it to the Coast Guard, along with a description of the equipment.

“We believe the general public may be unaware of the search effort that may result from a situation of this nature,” said Lieutenant Commander Leanne Lusk, Chief of the Command Center for Coast Guard Sector San Francisco. “If there is even a small chance that someone is in trouble, we will use all available assets to search for them, which may result in wasted man hours if the person is in no distress at all. Unnecessary searches can be prevented with a single phone call to the Coast Guard.”

Additionally, those who enjoy water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, or kite or windsurfing, should file a float plan with a responsible friend or family member shore-side. Information such as planned location of activity or intended route, approximate duration of activity and return time, and a description of equipment, should be included.

The Coast Guard highly encourages carrying a means of communication as well, such as a hand-held radio, a cell phone in a waterproof bag, and visual distress signals if possible.

To learn more about safe boating practices, and to see all required and recommended safety equipment, visit: http://www.uscgboating.org/ .

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