Summer Kayaking Safety Tips

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With summer in full swing, several U.S. states have issued advisories, reminders and other information for kayakers.

The following tips come from state agencies throughout the USA.


With five fatalities recently on Maine’s coastal and inland waters, the Maine Marine Patrol and Maine Warden Service are working with Gov. Paul LePage to remind boaters and anglers of the inherent dangers that can occur when unprepared to respond to changing conditions or accidents.

Two people have died in sea kayaking incidents in the Bar Harbor and Lamoine areas this year, and three people have died while fishing from a boat or on a sandbar and while recreational boating.

In a July radio message, Gov. LePage warned boaters, saying:

“Whether you’re a Mainer or a vacationer I hope you’ll stay safe on our waters this summer.

“Please, wear a life jacket. The Maine Warden Service and Maine Marine Patrol recommend that everyone wear a life jacket while on the water”.

Paddlesports boating is one of the fastest growing recreation activities in Maine, according to Maine Marine Patrol Pilot Steve Ingram. With little investment and experience, paddlers are many times out on the water unprepared for the elements they sometimes face. Hoping to reduce the increase in injuries and fatalities, the Maine Marine Patrol is reaching out to the paddle community in hopes of educating sea kayakers. This will hopefully lead to enhanced safety and enjoyment out on the water.

Safety starts with knowledge. Many factors related to the marine environment and coastal climate increase the risk of sea kayaking. Weather and water conditions can change rapidly, and fog and thundershowers are frequent along the coast during the summer. Always listen to the marine forecast for your area ahead of time. You can generally count on an afternoon sea breeze that will in turn increase winds, chop and wave heights.

There are many things one can do to reduce some of the risks in paddlesports and boating:

Always wear your life jacket.

Don’t drink or use drugs and operate a boat. Alcohol’s effects are greatly exaggerated by exposure to sun, glare, wind, noise and vibration.

Begin by taking a paddling course to learn the basic kayaking and paddling techniques. There are many courses offered around the state.

Dress for the weather for both air and water temperature. This may require constant adjustment, multiple layers of thin synthetic fiber clothing allows for wide variations in temperature and weather. Some form of paddling jacket is highly recommended and possibly a wet suit depending on the time of year.

Vibrant colors are most visible to other boaters.

Give someone or file a float plan of where you are embarking from, your intended route, as well as your return time. A great sample form can be downloaded at

A handheld VHF radio in a waterproof bag is essential for notifying authorities in case of emergencies. Cell phones are good, but they don’t always work out on the ocean.

Be sure to label your kayak and equipment with your name and contact information.

Keep emergency supplies on board in a floating pouch, complete with maps, flares and a first aid kit.

Remember, being informed, prepared and knowing emergency procedures will increase your safety and help create a safer paddling and boating community in Maine.

source: Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife


The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is reminding operators of these watercraft that it is important to know what safety equipment and regulations apply.

“Currently, unpowered boats are not required to be registered, unless they are being used at a state-owned access such as a Commission access area or lake or Pennsylvania state parks and state forests,” said Ryan Walt, PFBC boating and watercraft safety manager. “In these cases, you must either have your non-powered boat registered or have a launch permit issued by the Commission or the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.”

The cost to register a non-powered boat or to buy a launch permit is the same – $10 for one year or $18 for two – but registration provides additional benefits to the owner, Walt added. “By registering your boat, the information is recorded in our system and we can help you and the authorities locate it if it is ever lost or stolen.”

Registration also makes the renewal process easier. “Once your boat is registered, we will send you a renewal notice three months before the period is up,” said Walt. “It’s convenient and allows the owner to spend more time thinking about paddling and less time worrying about whether they renewed their registration or have a current launch permit.”

In addition to the registration requirement, important life-saving equipment is required to be carried on non-powered crafts.

Life jackets:

Every person in a kayak, canoe, inflatable raft or paddleboard must have on board a readily accessible U.S. Coast Guard-approved, wearable type I, II, III, or V life jacket of appropriate size. Children 12 years of age and younger must wear their life jackets while underway on any boat 20 feet or less in length and on all canoes and kayaks. Life jackets save lives, so Wear It!

Sound producing device:

Unpowered boat operators are required to carry a device capable of sounding a prolonged blast for 4-6 seconds that can be heard by another boat operator in time to avoid a collision. An athletic coach’s whistle is an acceptable sound producing device. Clip it to your life jacket for easy access.


Any kayak, canoe, inflatable raft or paddleboard in Pennsylvania waters after dusk must have a hand-held or installed white light to be displayed in time to avoid a collision with another craft.  When anchored or moored after dusk, an all-round white light must be displayed where it can best be seen 360 degrees.

source: Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission

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