Coast Guard reminds about safety after paddle sport-related accidents

Accidents make up 50 percent of all deaths on Great Lakes this year


ST. CLAR SHORES, Mich. – U.S. Coast Guard Station St. Clair Shores is reminding boaters about safety after paddle sport-related accidents on the Great Lakes.

The accidents make up 50 percent of all deaths on the Great Lakes this year. Coast Guard officials said of those deaths, 90 percent were people not wearing a life jacket. The Coast Guard said this is an increase from previous years.

The Coast Guard responded to 27 cases in the last 30 days on the Great Lakes involving paddle craft, such as canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. Officials said four cases resulted in loss of life with no life jackets.

"Paddle craft are the fastest-growing segment of the recreational boating community, and with that fast growth has come a deluge of inexperienced boaters," the Coast Guard said. "With this lack of experience often comes a lack of knowledge of safe practices."

The Coast Guard is looking to inform the greater Detroit boating community of the following safe practices:

1) Wearing a life jacket. As noted above, this is the easiest and most effective way to prevent loss of life on the water, even for strong swimmers.

2) Keeping a cellphone or handheld VHF radio on board. In the event of an emergency, this allows the boater to reach out for help before it is too late.

3) Having a light for nighttime paddling. Apart from being federally required while on Lake St. Clair and its surrounding waterways, a light can help signal other boaters or shore stations in the event of an emergency.

4) Filing a float plan. Doing something as simple as writing down where you intend to leave from, travel to, and anticipated return time can greatly assist in the Coast Guard's search in the event of distress.

5) Taking a safety course. Particularly for those newer to paddle sports in general, a safety course may teach techniques such as re-entering or re-righting canoes and kayaks, proper paddling techniques, and how to "read" the weather to avoid wind, waves and currents that may be dangerous.