Coast Guard provides safety tips for paddlesport enthusiasts

WCVB TV meteorologist Cindy Fitzgibbons receives kayaking lessons and boating safety tips from pro kayaker, Kevin N. Horner during a cold water safety event hosted by Coast Guard Station Boston, May 13, 2015. Despite the warming weather, New England waters are dangerously cold so both kayakers are wearing drysuits under their lifejackets. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)

WCVB TV meteorologist Cindy Fitzgibbons receives kayaking lessons and boating safety tips from pro kayaker, Kevin N. Horner during a cold water safety event hosted by Coast Guard Station Boston, May 13, 2015.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)kayak

NEW HAVEN, CT – The Coast Guard is reminding paddlesport enthusiasts to take precautions to ensure safe trips and increase survivability on the water.

Paddlesports consisting of row boats, canoes, kayaks and standup paddle boards, are the fastest growing segment of recreational boating.

The Coast Guard encourages boaters who enjoy paddlesports to continue doing so, but to use the correct safety and survival equipment. Paddlesport enthusiasts should also brush up on paddling education by taking one or more of the paddler education classes offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons, state departments of natural resources, community park districts, paddling clubs and local commercial outfitters.

The following three pieces of equipment are some examples of gear the Coast Guard considerers to be essential for all paddlers on the water:

  • Life Jacket – A life jacket is one of a paddler’s primary pieces of safety gear. Any life jacket worn is better than none at all. However, the Coast Guard recommends paddlers use life jackets that are inherently buoyant rather than inflatable, which makes reentering a paddlecraft, especially a sit-inside kayak, easier in the event of a roll-over. Life jackets should be brightly colored to increase visibility to boaters in power and sail craft.
  • VHF-FM Marine Radio – Paddlers are encouraged to invest in a waterproof, hand-held VHF-FM marine radio as their primary means of distress alerting on the water. Communication via VHF-FM radio provides superior alerting capabilities compared to cell phones. When a mayday is sent out via VHF-FM radio, it is a broadcast and not just a one-to-one communication; any nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance.
  • Personal Locator Beacon – A personal locator beacon is a compact device that is clipped to a boater, normally on the life jacket he is wearing. In the U.S., users are required by law to directly register their PLB in the 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database at:http://ift.tt/1lqJBfy or by calling 1-888-212-SAVE.

Additional safety tips the Coast Guard recommends for all paddlers:

  • Paddlers should always check the weather forecast before a trip and should dress for the water temperature, rather than the air temperature. At times this might mean wearing wet or dry suits while paddling.
  • A float plan should be completed and left with someone who is not going with the paddlers. A float plan is a lifesaving device on paper and provides emergency responders with valuable information they would need in order to search for a distressed or overdue boater. Information on a float plan and how to obtain a blank float plan can be found at http://ift.tt/1lrgyd4.
  • Paddlers should resist the temptation to take to the water alone and should instead paddle with a partner or in groups. This reduces risk to an individual in the event of an emergency. Paddling in groups increases the chances of being seen by powerboat operators and sail craft in the vicinity.
  • Paddlers need to understand their physical limitations and endurance. Paddling can be strenuous exercise, and paddlers should be physically fit and know techniques for self-rescue, as well as how to rescue fellow paddlers.
  • Paddlers need to understand the limitations of their paddlecraft. There are different types of paddlecraft design. Some kayaks are designed for touring and are capable of carrying significant amounts of gear for longer trips. These types of kayaks may cost several thousand dollars. Others, such as inexpensive, entry-level kayaks, are generally designed for protected waters, near-shore waters or water such as that found on lakes and slow moving rivers when paddling trips will be of shorter duration.

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