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Labels Save Lives

by Norris Comer

Now that the good times of summer are upon us, it is hard to get on the water and not see a kayaker enjoying the sights. And, let’s be honest, if one kayaks long enough, odds are good that the little adventure platform will get away from its mooring. An unmanned kayak floating about may seem like a harmless enough sight to most, but to the Coast Guard, it represents a major issue.

“The major issue is that during the summertime, we get a lot of runaway kayaks,” says Executive Chief Petty Officer of Coast Guard Station Bellingham, Michael Beety. “Whatever the reason, they get loose. We get a report of an unmanned kayak and we have to search for a person. The assumption is that the person could’ve fallen overboard and that’s a big deal.”

The U.S. Coast Guard has to conduct search patterns and potentially even bring in a helicopter. More often than not, an owner who was never in danger to begin with saunters up after the cavalry has arrived.

“We expend major resources on people who were never on board to begin with,” says Beety. The solution? Always label your kayak with contact information. “If people could just label their kayaks, we could stop the unnecessary searches,” says Beety. “We’ve got free waterproof stickers here at [the] Station Bellingham. Stop on by to grab one and save your kayak.”

Not only does labeling your kayak ensure that you’ll get it back, it also saves the Coast Guard (and the taxpayer) all kinds of grief. Instead of calling in the chopper, all the Coast Guard or good Samaritan has to do is call the phone number labeled on the kayak. So do us all a favor and label your kayaks and other small paddlecraft. You’ll be glad you did.

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