Many of us dream of paddling our kayaks in pristine, wilderness waters, far from civilization and motorized vessels. However, it's likely that the vast majority of paddle sport enthusiasts navigate waters utilized by a variety of marine traffic. Even in Alaska, many of us are paddling in waters regularly transited by recreational motorboats, sailboats, commercial fishers, cruise ships, tugs and barges, etc.
A recent accident involving a power catamaran that seriously injured two kayakers prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to publish Marine Safety Alert 04-17 with advice on paddling safely near vessel traffic. In addition, the bulletin includes the following list of best practices for paddle sports enthusiasts, whenever they are on the water:
Always wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket
Make yourself be seen (bright / contrasting clothing)
Carry a sound producing device such as a whistle
Carry a DCS-VHF radio
Know your paddling limits
Know the area where you will be operating
Avoid paddling in main channels of busy waterways when possible
Dress appropriately for the water temperature and forecasted weather
Don’t paddle alone
Tell a friend where you are going and when you will return - file a float plan.
If you plan to be out after dark, you will be required to exhibit an all-round light or have a flashlight readily available
Don’t drink alcohol and operate a boat or paddlecraft
You can read the full alert here. Play it safe and follow the best practices!