Coast Guard to enforce Operation Paddle Smart

The Coast Guard and partner agencies are focusing efforts to educate paddlers on how to “have fun, be safe, and paddle smart.” (U.S. Coast Guard illustration)BOSTON — The Coast Guard is scheduled to be out in full force Friday through Sunday enforcing paddlecraft safety.

Since April 2017, the Coast Guard has conducted more than 370 paddlecraft boardings and terminated 110 voyages. Voyages were terminated due to not having a life jacket or a sound producing device.

According to the National Safe Boating Council, in 2016, the Northeast had 28 paddler deaths, more than double the national average. To date, there have been about 33 recreational boating fatalities, with 20 of those deaths happening in inland waters. Sixteen out of the 33 deaths were paddlecraft related.

Paddlesports continue to be the fastest growing segment of recreational boating, with more than 300,000 paddle crafts (canoes, kayaks and paddle boards) being sold annually.

However, just like boating, there is a skill level to the sport.

“Paddlers should know their skill level and not go beyond it,” said Walt Taylor, First Coast Guard District’s recreational boating safety specialist.

The Coast Guard will be looking for life jackets, a sound making device, and other safety equipment to ensure paddlers have a safe and enjoyable time on the water the rest of the summer.

Paddlers in Massachusetts are required to wear life jackets from Sept. 15-May 15; in Connecticut, Oct. 1-May 31, and in New York, Nov. 1-May 1. All mariners should be aware that most states require children under 12 to be in a life jacket at all times while on the water.

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