SOMESVILLE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – With hundreds expected to be out on the water this summer, the U.S. Coast Guard has ramped up efforts to bring awareness to paddler safety.
At least five people were killed in paddlecraft accidents, canoes, kayaks rowboats and paddle boards, already this year. That compared to nine in 2016, according to the Coast Guard.
"You know that's an unacceptable number," Michael Miller with the U.S. Coast Guard station in Southwest Harbor said.
In 80 percent of all water-related accidents the victim was not wearing a life jacket.
"Our policy is to just have everybody wear their life jacket but some people still don't because they're bulky and uncomfortable and not the coolest,” Bailey Moore said.
20-year-old Moore, a student at UMaine, has worked for National Park Canoe Rentals in Somesville since he was young.
"My grandfather used to own the business and I've been working here for like 10 years,” he said.
In that time, Moore has taken on the role of instructing renters on how to be safe on the water as they embark on their journey on four-mile Great Long Pond.
"By the afternoon it's always pretty windy like this and that's when people get into the most trouble,” he said.
As the tourist season kicks into full gear for Moore, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Paddle Responsibly initiative is as well. The effort providing a wealth of information for everyone heading out on the water.
Here are some tips if you happen to flip:
-Your life jacket is crucial. Always have it on—not just in the boat.
-If the current or wind is strong, do not try to swim against it. Relax.
-If you can, forget about the boat. Worry about your own safety first.
"Don't worry about the boat. The boat has a price your life is priceless,” Moore said.
Moore said incidents are rare for their shop, but they have the resources in place to help those in need.
It is a reminder that a beautiful day on the water can quickly take a turn, but it is often preventable if you take the right steps to prepare.
“We want everybody to be out and enjoying the outdoor activities but we want you to always make sure that safety is the first priority before you ever leave the house,” Miller said.
Another large part of the Coast Guard’s efforts is ‘If found’ stickers meant to be attached to watercraft. Miller said the free decals are a way for officials to contact owners if a vessel is swept away from shore. That way they do not have to immediately trigger a search and can save resources for where they are really needed.
For a number of tips and where you can find training courses visit the U.S. Coast Guard’s website.