Florida Keys to implement paddle craft labeling program

KEY WEST, Fla. — The Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary in Sector Key West are teaming up to launch Operation Paddle Smart, a campaign benefiting the Florida Keys and the U.S. maritime community.

The goal of Operation Paddle Smart is to educate small watercraft owners on water safety and provide them with a sticker that could be beneficial to everyone involved, whether they’re kayaking or part of a search and rescue operation.

Large recreational or commercial vessels include hull registration numbers and a vessel name, which identify the owner. Kayaks and other forms of paddle watercrafts often don’t include identifying features that allow the owner to be contacted.

Operation Paddle Smart will feature safety messages and provide small-watercraft owners with reflective, waterproof stickers offering space for boaters to write their name and two phone numbers in case their watercraft is found drifting. Stickers will be available at boating safety events, boating supply stores and through partner agencies.

“With the ability to contact the small-watercraft owners, Coast Guard and partner agency responders can cut back on the number of unnecessary risks placed on search and rescue operators and reduce the money and resources expended,” said Capt. Pat DeQuattro, commander, Coast Guard Sector Key West.

The campaign will kick off with a proclamation presented to DeQuattro from the Mayor of Monroe County Heather Carruthers at the March 16 County Commission meeting in Marathon, Fla., declaring April “Paddle Smart Identification Month” in Monroe County.

The Safe Boating Fair will be offered at the Key West Sail and Power Squadron Building at 5205 College Road in Key West, April 2. Beginning at 9 a.m., this day-long event will team the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Sail and Power Squadron and other partner agencies to demonstrate numerous aspects of safe boating, including paddle craft labeling.

For more information on Operation Paddle Smart or to obtain a sticker, please contact the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Monroe County at 888-470-5566.

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