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Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
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Augusta, ME 04333
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Fax: (207) 287-6395
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July 14, 2011
Life Jackets, Preparation Essential When Sea Kayaking, Boating
Augusta, Maine -- 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.
On Saturday, Gov. LePage will discuss water safety in his weekly radio address, emphasizing that Maine has an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities during the summer months, and that life jackets and safety should play a major role in anyone’s activities.
“Whether you’re a Mainer or a vacationer I hope you’ll stay safe on our waters this summer,” says Gov. LePage in the radio address, which airs Saturday. “Please, wear a life jacket. The Maine Warden Service and Maine Marine Patrol recommend that everyone wear a life jacket while on the water.”
Newer life jackets on the market are slimmer, less bulky and comfortable, according to Maine Warden Service Lt. Adam Gormely. “After wearing them for a while, people forget that they have them on,” he said. “But if needed, people are grateful that they are wearing them. Life jackets save lives.”
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 www.MaineSeaKayakGuides.com.
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.