NEWPORT (WPRI) — When a kayak, canoe or other small craft floats up on its own by the shores of New England, U.S. Coast Guard officials worry is that its operator has gone overboard.
The Coast Guard then launches response crews in an effort to find the potentially missing boater.
According to the Coast Guard, 31 unexplained and unmanned watercrafts were reported over the busy weekend between Maine and the Jersey shore.
The agency is now advising paddlers to keep their watercrafts properly secured and to mark your name on them to reduce unnecessary searches.
The Coast Guard’s Southeastern New England sector said it received five of the unmanned craft reports. One had to be suspended due to lack of information and four were resolved because the owner was found.
There were similar results in the Northern New England, Boston and Long Island Sound sectors.
“When we see an unmanned, adrift kayak in the water, we treat that as a possible person in the water,” said Sector Southeastern New England Petty Officer Jose Perez.
However, this can come with consequences.
“It pushes some of our boat crews into the maximum fatigue standards so that they’re not capable of responding to search and rescue for other cases,” said Perez.
Totaling up all 31 reports, about $428,300 and 450 man-hours were spent searching for unconfirmed persons in the water, the Coast Guard said.
In Rhode Island and Massachusetts alone, crews responded to 17 reports of unmanned or adrift paddlecraft over the holiday weekend, which Coast Guard officials tell Eyewitness News adds up to roughly 238 man-hours and approximately $221,000.
The Southeastern New England sector responded to five of those reports. Four owners were located.
The fifth case was a kayak found under the Jamestown Bridge, but was suspended due to lack of information.
The Coast Guard provided a checklist of reminders:
- Wear your life jacket; it can save your life.
- Label your paddlecraft with contact information. You don’t need an ID 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 are done 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 we have a good area to search if you go missing.
- Have a light for night paddling.
- Have a sound making device.
- Know your limits; paddle in safe areas under safe conditions.
- Planning and safe boating practices save lives, reduces responder fatigue, and minimizes the waste of taxpayer dollars on unnecessary searches.
Watercraft owners can get an ID stick for free at any Coast Guard station of auxiliary. It’s recommended that the watercrafts are weather-proofed as best they can be to prevent them from being damaged or floating away during storms.