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Some of you may have heard about how a kayak that became untied in rye a week or so ago launched an extensive search. Now in the other days paper they have an article about "kayak tagging" It was in the Portsmouth Herald...

RYE — Emergency officials say identifying the owners of non-motorized boats could save time and money by preventing useless and costly searches.

When a kayak washed up at a beach in town late in June, officials did not know whether the vessel had been occupied at any point while on the water. That question prompted a search that lasted hours.

The search on the water included the Portsmouth fire boat, two Marine Patrol boats, a U.S. Coast Guard boat and an auxiliary airplane. Members of the Rye Fire Department were kept busy searching the shoreline. The costs, taking in consideration fuel, and manpower, were extensive; officials finally determined the kayak had simply come untied and floated away from a pier.

Had one simple step been taken, all of the above could have been avoided. Had the owner placed his identification information on the kayak, a phone call could have cleared up the mystery.

Al Johnson is a recreational boating expert for the 1st Coast Guard District. The district's jurisdiction covers the waters from the U.S.-Canadian border in Maine, south to northern New Jersey, and inland to Lake Champlain. Johnson said he didn't analyze the Rye incident, but said there is always a cost for a search. He favors tagging non-motorized boats so they can be identified as are larger boats that have registered bow numbers.

"Realistically, if it had a tag, when an event like this occurs, it would have saved thousands of dollars in search effort and search time," Johnson said. "And we the taxpayers are the ones paying for it."

In fact, Johnson said the Coast Guard recently started a program called "Paddle Smart," intended to teach kayakers and other small boaters how to be safe on the water.

According to information from the Coast Guard, the district suffered the loss of 58 recreational boaters and paddlers in 2007. Fifteen canoe and eight kayak fatalities accounted for 40 percent of the total. Since 1998, when the 1st Coast Guard District began tracking area-specific recreational fatalities, canoe and kayak fatalities have averaged 30 percent of yearly totals — more than double the national average.

Operation Paddle Smart members have been distributing paddle sport safety packets throughout the Northeast. Included in them is a decal to apply identification information to small boats and kayaks. It's not required by law, but Johnson said it's just good common sense.

"We printed up 20,000 information packets," Johnson said. "One is a contact sheet that simply says, if found, contact whoever owns the boat. You peel the back (the decal) and stick it inside. We've distributed just about all we have and we're ordering another 40,000."

"I think it should be mandatory," said Exeter resident Mike Lambert. "I think they should have to be on kayaks, dinghies and inflatables. Last summer, there was a search after a big inflatable raft was found in the Piscataqua River. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with Bud Field, our harbor master, and I suggested to him that he pass this on to Geno Marconi." Marconi is the director of the New Hampshire Division of Ports and Harbors.

Petty Officer Jeremy Graffam, who is stationed at Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor, said there is a cost whenever the agency has to send out a boat.

"It is a lot of money because you have the whole crew on boat, the fuel and additional resources on shore," Graffam said. "Just for one search, you can easily have 30 people involved. It would be an easy thing to cut that work for owners to engrave names and phone numbers on (their watercraft)."

Marine Patrol Sgt. Cheryl Clancy said her agency's costs were not inflated because the marine officers were already out on patrol.

"I know it was for the Coast Guard, because they had a plane," Clancy said. "We were on duty, so it was something we would have done anyway. I think marking the kayak is the best idea. I had something similar last year, but could trace the bow numbers. Without bow numbers, it would be great to have a name and phone number. Some people just don't realize that we have to think someone is missing."

Rye Fire Chief William "Skip" Sullivan said he spent four years in the Coast Guard, and he knows unidentified watercraft are common.

"We have to err on the side of public safety," Sullivan said. "You have to investigate. You have to assume someone is in trouble until you prove differently."

Sullivan said identification for small boats is a good idea.

"A boat would have a registration on it, but these little kayakers do not," Sullivan said. "We find it and there's no way to notify someone to claim it. I know it's not required, but it's an absolutely excellent idea. Remember, we're all paying the same $4 a gallon for fuel. Or we may have a true emergency at the same time.".....

Now my question is this.. How do I tag my boat? If I use a permanent marker, with I be able to remove it from the fiberglass hull if I go to sell it? And they talk about a stick on thingy... after a months worth of rolling and getting wet in the saltwater, wont that just come off? I have had stickers on my boat fall off before. I also want to say that I do think it is a greeat idea, but I'm not sure how to go about doing it so it wont come off accidently, but comes off I I want it off.

Any suggestions?

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I wrote my name and current contact info on an interior bulkhead with a sharpie "permanent" marker. I know from experience that concentrated ethanol will remove it from most surfaces. Even if it doesn't come off and I were to sell the boat, presumably I'd know the name of the person I'd sold it to.


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Well, I'm generally not in favor of anything being "mandated" insofar as kayaking is concerned. However, pure common sense (not so common anymore I guess) would suggest that one put a name and contact phone number inside one's kayak. Perhaps manufacturers could add a blank label inside the cockpit and provide a free sharpie with each boat purchase? :huh: Another good practice is to put a cockpit cover on boats that are left shoreside when not in use for extended periods like overnight... or perhaps a sprayskirt with the tunnel tied... so that, should a floater be found, the authorities would know that it was an unmanned (oops, sorry... unpersoned) craft when cast adrift.

Of course, selling "tags" would be another great way for state and local governments to raise some more tax dollars B)

Carl C.

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A better idea and less permanent. Attach a luggage tag with name and phone number inside the cockpit in a conspicuous place.

If the CG can track bow number for large boats to the owners how about doing the same for small boats. Create a web page were we can type in out bow number and give them contact information. They can set it up with a password so only the owner of the boat can change the contact information. This way you can find out if you are about to purchase a hot boat too. This would give incentive to register.

I can say for a fact that sharpie doesn't last. I had Nigel sign my boat in a few locations inside and out and even with clear tape on top the signatures are gone.

A luggage tag might work for some but I see that as something that will last less than a week in my boat.

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