Kayakers, canoe operators keep Coast Guard busy

SAN DIEGO – From Oregon to New Orleans to Philadelphia, the Coast Guard stayed busy this past weekend rescuing kayakers and a canoeist.

In Oregon the Coast Guard rescued a 30-year old male after his kayak overturned. The man was reportedly suffering from hypothermia when Coast Guard rescuers reached him.

In New Orleans the Coast Guard rescued a man in the Bonnet Carre Spillway after he became stranded on his canoe by the strong current.

In Philadelphia the Coast Guard, a tug boat crew and a boom boat crew rescued two kayakers after they capsized and were overtaken by water in the Delaware River. Both kayakers demonstrated early signs of hypothermia.

Stories like these are all too familiar and as the temperatures across the country warm more and more Americans will take to the water for recreation.

As the number of people turning to manual powered craft or paddle craft increases, so does the risk for novice or unprepared operators getting themselves into trouble. A recent study by the Outdoor Industry Foundation has shown a dramatic increase in the number of Americans participating in kayaking; a 23 percent increase in 2005 alone. Unfortunately, there has also been a rise in the number of paddle craft accidents.

The prepared kayaker will have a boat appropriate for the task, wear protective clothing and a lifejacket, carry safety and communication equipment, have the skills to re-enter and roll and use good judgment. The experienced kayaker should also be in the company of one or more people equally versed in reading the water and self-rescue.

The Guard Auxiliary reminds paddle craft operators that a safe trip begins with assessing conditions and planning your trip, including the return. Data is available from a wide array of sources: buoys, NOAA forecasts, locals, previous trip reports, bar condition reports and charts are starting points as the prudent mariner should not rely on a single source of information.

And don’t forget to wear your lifejacket. Paddle craft operators are also encouraged to get a free Vessel Safety Check. Paddle crafts are considered vessels too and are required by federal law to maintain specific safety equipment onboard. To arrange for a free vessel safety check go to http://www.vesselsafetycheck.org/ and click on “I Want a VSC” to find a Vessel Examiner near you.

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