Started a few years ago, Operation Paddle Smart is a goal of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary to educate paddle-sport enthusiasts on how to stay safe, be responsible boaters and help emergency responders in search and rescue (SAR) situations. They provide Paddle Smart weatherproof stickers that can easily be placed on paddlecraft to help identify and contact the owner or other designated contact.
Two numbers are recommended since cell phones can be rendered inoperable if they get wet. The square, orange reflective stickers can be written on with a permanent marker. It is suggested that they be placed on the inner sides of the kayak where they are easily visible. Another tip is to cover the completed sticker with clear packing tape to keep the information from fading and to offer a protective coating. The goal of the program is to make boating safer and more enjoyable, as well as help recover lost property as well as save lives in the event of an emergency.
With no registration required for most kayaks, if they are found adrift it can be difficult to tell if it is just a wayward kayak or if the occupant(s) are actually missing. If it’s the latter, time can be critical in launching a search and rescue mission. But if it is just a wayward kayak, huge amounts of time and money might be wasted conducting a search when it is unnecessary. Having timely access to this information can conserve resources and possibly save lives.
One of the best safety tips for plying the waters in tiny vessels is to make yourself as visible as possible. When practical, choose brightly-colored kayaks and clothing. Another simple sticker offered by the Coast Guard is a silver Mylar reflective sticker to place on your kayak paddle. The mirror-like sticker can be invaluable in signaling other craft, and even to help rescuers find you in an emergency. Bearing the Paddle Responsibly logo, the round stickers go on the blades of your paddle. The highly reflective material acts as a signaling mirror, but also provides flashes with every paddle stroke to make other boaters aware of your presence. It’s a simple idea that also can help save lives.
For information on the stickers and other safe paddling information and programs, contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary unit by going to: www.cgaux.org/units.php.