Paddlesports consisting of rowboats, canoes, kayaks and standup paddleboards, are the fastest growing segment of recreational boating.
Despite air temperatures reaching 60 degrees recently, water temperatures remain below 50 degrees. Under these conditions, a person in the water will begin to suffer from hypothermia within 72 minutes. However, a person in the water can lose the ability to swim and keep themselves afloat much sooner.
“Survival time in water this cold is based upon many factors,” said Cmdr. Aurora Fleming, Coast Guard Sector New York command center chief. “A person’s ability to live through any condition is greatly enhanced by wearing the right safety gear such as a lifejacket or immersion suit.”
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, state departments of natural resources, community park districts, paddling clubs and local commercial outfitters.
“Now is a great time to inspect your emergency preparedness gear,” said Fleming. “Check over your lifejackets, life rings and flares. Ensure that your radio and navigational devices are functioning properly, have your fire extinguishers serviced and become familiar with your gear. Knowing what to do and having reliable gear will save your life in an emergency situation.”
For owners of smaller watercraft, simple identification such as a person’s name and phone number printed legibly and made visible can assist Coast Guard search and rescue crews in contacting the owner if the vessel is located unmanned and adrift.
“Everyone should also file a float plan, which is shared with someone ashore,” said Fleming. “This is particularly important for those aboard a paddlesport watercraft which don’t have a marine radio.”
Below are 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.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers complimentary vessel safety checks as well as public education courses and electronic float plans. To find the nearest Auxiliary Flotilla and for more boating safety resources, visit http://ift.tt/1HMinzL and www.uscgboating.org.