Free kayak and canoeing safety seminar in South Portland, Maine

PORTLAND, Maine – The public is invited to attend a one-day kayak and canoeing safety seminar at the South Portland, Maine, Coast Guard base, located at 259 High Street, April 25, 2009, from 10 a.m., till 3 p.m.

The event is in support of Operation Paddle Smart, which is a multi-agency initiative to promote recreational paddle sport safety, and will include an in-water demonstration of self and assisted rescue techniques as well as a Coast Guard search and rescue demonstration.

Other activities available during the seminar include:

* A press conference at 12 p.m., during which representatives from the Coast Guard, state and local authorities and kayaking guides and instructors will be available to discuss Operation Paddle Smart and boating safety.

* Scheduled tours of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, Station South Portland, Aids to Navigation Team Portland, and Coast Guard cutters will be available from 10 a.m., until 3 pm.

* From 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., the public can bring expired flares to either expend under Coast Guard supervision or turn in for proper destruction.

* Experts will provide presentations on trip planning strategies, required and recommended gear and other recreational boating skills.

* The Coast Guard Auxiliary will also offer free voluntary paddle craft inspections outside of the base for members of the public who bring their kayak or canoe to the event.

Additionally, kayak and canoe safety packets, including boat identification stickers, will be available.

“The sticker includes a space for the name of the owner and for other contact information,” said Lt. Bryan Hollis, the sector’s Operation Paddle Smart liaison.

“When we find an unoccupied kayak or canoe, we often can’t be immediately certain if we have an actual search and rescue case for a missing person, or if the vessel simply drifted off the beach with a changing tide,” Hollis said. “Having the owner’s contact sticker on the boat can help us render necessary aid more quickly and effectively, or it can help us and our partners resolve the issue before beginning a costly air and sea search.”

The event is a collaborative effort of the U.S Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron, state and local partners, kayak instructors and guides from Maine, and area retailers.

The New England region suffered the loss of 58 recreational boaters and paddlers in 2007. Eight kayak and 15 canoe fatalities accounted for 40 percent of the total.

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