Autumn is a wonderful time to explore quiet waters and view fall foliage from your kayak or paddleboard. We’ve talked about the importance of wearing a PFD in cooler, unpopulated waters, but another important safety tip involves labeling of your craft with an “If Found” sticker.
Far too often, a kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard, dinghy or other small craft is found bobbing empty on the lake or bay. Because the boat has no power and is unregistered there is no way of knowing who owns it or why it is there. Did someone fall out of their craft, and are they out there in desperate need? Or is this simply a boat blown offshore from a dock or beach?
If a quick scan of the boat reveals a sticker, decal or other indication of the owner’s name and cellphone number then officials can quickly determine if this is lost property or someone in dire straits, and if the latter, where to focus a search.
That’s why paddlers and others are asked to use a waterproof marker to record their information and then place the “If Found” sticker on an easily visible interior hull location. Stickers are available through local Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas, United States Power Squadrons offices, kayak and canoe shops and websites, harbor masters, and commercial sources such as Amazon. Paddling.com offers them at paddling.com/store/uscg-if-found-sticker.
A sticker is the most distinctive, reliable way to provide contact information. Please attach one to your craft and, while you’re at it, consider doing the same with paddles, oars, life jackets and other gear that could get separated from you or the boat and trigger searches.