Handheld radio saves lost kayaker

Pacific Northwest Coast Guard News
SEATTLE—The Coast Guard rescued a kayaker who used a handheld radio to call for help after becoming disoriented from the fog in Rosario Strait near Cypress Island, Wash., today.

Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound was able to obtain an approximate location of the kayaker by tracking his radio transmission through the Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 communications system.

At 11 a.m., Sector Puget Sound received a distress call on VHF Channel 16 from a person in a red kayak who had lost awareness of his surroundings due to area fog.

A 25-foot response boat from Coast Guard Station Bellingham was diverted from training on the east side of Guemes Island to assist the kayaker.  They located the mariner next to the Reef Point lighted buoy at approximately 11:35 a.m.

The boat crew brought the kayaker aboard and transferred him ashore in Anacortes.

“It’s proven that VHF radios save lives on the water,” said Chief Petty Officer Eric Loyd, the command duty officer at Sector Puget Sound who assisted in establishing the kayaker’s location. “We can get somebody on scene and in a perfect position to help.”

Rescue 21 is an advanced command, control and direction-finding communications system operational along the entire coast of the continental United States, the Great Lakes, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Guam. The system uses towers along the coast to generate lines of bearing to the source of VHF radio transmissions, establishing an approximate location of the vessel in distress.

Though the accuracy of the system can vary, Loyd said in this case he and his team were able to establish an excellent fix that put the boat crew within one nautical mile of the kayaker’s position.

The Coast Guard recommends that all mariners carry a VHF radio aboard their vessels. Radios are more reliable than cell phones and can be used to alert nearby vessels in the event of an emergency.

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