PLYMOUTH, Mass. — It was a busy Fourth of July weekend for the Coast Guard, and an expensive one. They say kayaks are floating away without their owners, leading rescuers on long and unnecessary searches.
Every time a kayak or something similar is found floating, the search costs the Coast Guard an average of $65,000 each time.
All that money could be saved by something you can get for free: a simple sticker.
Local rescuers are spending hundreds of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to locate potential missing people in the water who aren't missing.
"Paddle crafts, kayaks, canoes, small dinghies, if they aren't propelled by machinery or have a motor on them they don’t have to be registered," said Plymouth Harbormaster Chad Hunter.
And when those kayaks and canoes are found adrift, it’s hard to tell if it floated away or something went wrong.
"What we have seen over the last week, we've had these astronomical high tides that actually creep further up on the shoreline than everybody is used to, then we end up with kayaks and canoes going adrift," Hunter said. "And once they are set adrift, they will go just about anywhere.
"There's no way for us to trace back the kayak or canoe to the owner to make sure they are okay."
Over the Fourth of July weekend alone, the northeast Coast Guard estimated they spent $428,300 on unconfirmed reports of people in the water.
Crews worked 450 hours on those unnecessary efforts. There were 31 separate reports from Maine to the Jersey shore.
The Plymouth Harbormaster responded to three of them.
"I was just on a search for a small inflatable boat that was let go south of Manomet Point," Hunter said. "Come to find out the weather conditions weren't the best in the bay yesterday and the guy's skiff broke off when he was transiting south, but he didn’t let anybody know."
They spent three hours searching before they found the owner and determined no one was missing.
"So that's three hours with three groups, three boats out there, three sets of boat crew searching," Hunter said.
He says the solution is as simple as a sticker.
"Very simple to stick this on kayak or canoe, you just want to put your name, phone number, your contact," he said.
Other safety tips include letting someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be out on the water. And when you’re done using it for the day, make sure your kayak or canoe is secure.
"Tie it off to a tree or to a post of something," Hunter said.
The harbormaster says accidents happen and by having your information on your kayak they can also make sure it gets back to you.
These stickers are available at most harbormasters for free.
- Wear your life jacket, it can save your life.
- Label your paddlecraft with contact information. You don't need a sticker, just a permanent marker and some clear tape to protect the ink. Check to make sure it's readable every time you go out.
- When you finished paddling for the day, secure your paddlecraft well above the waterline in cases of high tide and strong winds.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you are going to return, so searchers know where to look if you go missing.
- Have a light for night paddling.
- Have a sound-making device, like a whistle.
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