One of the fastest growing segments in the boating industry today is kayaking, although, this wasn’t always the case. There are nearly 300 million Americans living in this country, and according to Inc. Magazine, only 30,000 kayaks were sold in 1993. In 1996, just an estimated 40,000 kayaks were sold, but times have changed recently.
The National Recreation and Park Association in a recent report stated that, “A recent survey by the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America indicated that recreational kayaking almost doubled in participation from 1996 to 2000 with over 5.1 million participants nationwide.”
That’s some jump! And the sad part is the majority of those participating in kayaking don’t realize that a kayak is a real vessel which is required to conform to federal, state and local laws. Here are some facts to consider:
-Between January 1, 1999, and December 31, 2000, the United States Coast Guard Office for Boating Safety reported 188 deaths from canoeing and/or kayaking. One hundred seventy-three of which occurred from drowning.-Of all boating fatalities, from all types of boats, 84% of those who died never participated in a boating safety course.-Ninety percent of ALL boating fatalities were incurred by those who were not wearing a PFD (personal floatation device).
While the Coast Guard continues to report a decline in overall boating fatalities (each year since 1997), it is the non-traditional boater who is gaining in percentage where accidents and fatalities come into play. It is the kayaker and the canoeist who don’t realize that they, like their power boating brethren, need to take a safe boating course, have the proper safety equipment aboard, and most importantly, wear a PFD when underway.
Education is the key:
Have you ever been out on the water and all of a sudden a cold front came sweeping in? Depending on the season and your exact locale, one of two life threatening occurrences could occur.
If a fog bank rolls in, then not only will your visibility diminish greatly, but the chances of you being seen by other boaters goes down even more. If you’re an active kayaker, you already know that your low profile makes you an easy to overlook for the lackadaisical power boater who may not be paying attention.
If fog doesn’t roll in, maybe a severe thunderstorm will. Thunderstorms can bring heavy rains, rough seas, high winds, and dangerous hail. Let’s not forget to mention lightning, thunder, and again, diminished visibility. Do you know what you would do if you were kayaking and got stuck in a severe storm or for that matter, a heavy fog bank?
Kayakers, whether on a lake or river, in the bays, or out on the open ocean, need to clearly comprehend the Rules of the Road, be aware of how to utilize all of the required safety equipment, and understand the basic principles of navigation. The Coast Guard Auxiliary can help you here. The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers a myriad of boating courses that will educate you on everything you need to know for a safe, lifelong boating career. An educated boater, even as a kayaker, is a safe boater. Statistics don’t lie; safe boaters survive!
Look towards the Coast Guard Auxiliary for safety:
What safety equipment is required to be aboard your kayak? If you said none, you’d be wrong, and possibly dead wrong!
Vessel Safety Checks:
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary provides Vessel Safety Checks (VSC) free of charge for all types of waterborne vessels, including kayaks. The Auxiliary will inspect your craft to make sure you have all of the required safety equipment aboard.
Do you wear a PFD when kayaking? In 2000, 70% of those who died by drowning were NOT WEARING a PFD. Seventy percent! That’s quite a figure. That means a lot of people would have likely survived their kayaking accident if they were wearing a PFD.
Even if you had a personal floatation device aboard, do you know the proper way to wear your PFD, and do you carry the required safety equipment? Again, a Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel Examiner can inform you of what type of gear you need and how to best utilize it to make your hobby as safe as possible. Take the time to have a Vessel Safety Check completed on your kayak. It doesn’t take long, and it is not a law enforcement activity. The only people who know whether or not you failed your VSC are you and the Vessel Examiner. Should you pass the inspection the Vessel Examiner will place a VSC decal on your kayak, showing you comply with all of the federal, state and local mandated regulations.
The USCG Auxiliary is concerned with all recreational boating safety issues, and believe it or not, kayaks are real boats, too!
You can locate your nearest USCG Auxiliary Flotilla by calling your local Coast Guard office, or on the web at cgaux.org.
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