Coast Guard urges paddlecraft safety after multiple cases involving kayakers

A Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew searches for missing kayakers over Lake Earl in California, June 3, 2019. The kayakers' overturned kayak was found, prompting the search efforts by the Coast Guard and Del Norte County Sheriff's Office. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

A Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew searches for missing kayakers over Lake Earl in California, June 3, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. — The Coast Guard urges paddlers to exercise caution after assisting multiple kayakers in distress this week in the vicinity of Crescent City.

Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office personnel contacted Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay watchstanders, Monday morning, requesting assistance in locating a missing kayaker on Lake Earl.

Sheriff’s deputies informed the Coast Guard that two kayakers had departed the previous afternoon and that their kayak had overturned at some time around dusk.

A Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew was launched to help search the area. One of the kayakers swam to shore, but search assets were unable to locate the second kayaker. Del Norte County Sheriff reports that person remains missing.

A good Samaritan boater called the Coast Guard Monday afternoon via VHF radio reporting a separate case in which the boater had rescued two stranded kayakers near Crescent City harbor after their kayak had overturned and flooded. The stranded kayakers reported that they had been floating for approximately four-to-five hours before being rescued.

Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay watchstanders coordinated with Crescent City emergency medical services personnel to assist the rescued kayakers upon arrival at the harbor. The rescued kayakers were wearing life jackets, but had no means of calling the Coast Guard for assistance.

“I would like to stress the importance of always wearing a life jacket and carrying a VHF marine-band radio when out on the water,” said Cmdr. Brendan Hilleary, the Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay operations chief. “In the event of a capsizing emergency, mariners should try to remain with their vessel because it is much easier for rescuers to locate large objects in the water.”

The Coast Guard recommends that boaters and paddlers follow these important safety tips before entering the water:

Wear a life jacket. The Coast Guard estimates that life jackets could have saved the lives of more than 80 percent of boating fatality victims.

Carry a VHF-FM marine radio and alternate means of communication. Cell phones often lose signal and run out of batteries after a day on the water. They are helpful, but not reliable for emergencies. Boaters and paddlers should have access to a handheld VHF marine radio. In addition, the Coast Guard recommends that boaters monitor VHF-FM channel 16 for the most current ocean forecast and marine broadcast information.

Carry a registered EPIRB. Response time is the key to survival. The sooner help arrives, the better the chances for survival. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) provide the fastest and most accurate way the Coast Guard has of locating and rescuing people in distress.

Other boating safety information and the current boating safety statistics report is available on the Coast Guard boating safety website at

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