Coast Guard officials urge Pacific Northwest mariners to secure vessels ahead of fall weather

Operation Paddle Smart "If Found" Sticker

Operation Paddle Smart “If Found” Sticker

SEATTLE — Coast Guard officials are urging vessel and paddlecraft owners to properly secure and label their craft in anticipation of fall storms.

Coast Guard crews treat every unmanned and adrift vessel as a search and rescue case and immediately launch a search for people potentially in distress.

In 2015, Coast Guard search-and-rescue controllers received 93 reports of unmanned, adrift vessels in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, initiating hundreds of hours of searches. In the majority of cases, officials were unable to locate or contact an owner for the vessel.

“When an unmanned and adrift vessel is reported, it has to be assumed that the missing operator is in distress and we have to launch on the case,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Rocks, Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound Command Center Chief. “False alerts have the potential to divert resources from actual emergencies and can possibly cause our responders to become complacent.”

Officials are asking all mariners to securely tie their vessels and paddlecraft to their docks or bring them further inland where they can’t easily drift into open water.

Additionally, Coast Guard crews encourage all paddlecraft owners to write their name and phone number or driver’s license number on their kayak, canoe, paddleboard or other craft. In the event that the vessel is lost, crews can use that information to contact the owner and avoid launching an unnecessary search. Members of the public can obtain free Paddle Smart stickers for this purpose at the locations listed here.

If the owner of a vessel is unable to be located after a reasonable amount of time, Coast Guard crews are forced to destroy the vessel or turn it over to the state for disposal.

A mariner who believes his vessel has drifted into open water is encouraged to report it by calling the Coast Guard 13th District Command Center at 206-220-7001.

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