That can be costly in both dollars and manpower. A Coast Guard rescue helicopter costs $4,000 per hour to operate, Karwowski said.
The orange stickers could prevent unnecessary searches. Vessel owners are instructed to fill out the stickers with a name and two telephone numbers for officials to contact before they start a search.
The person contacted might say the vessel simply went missing with nobody aboard, or they might say, “‘My nephew just went paddling off Misery Island,’” Karwowski said, in which case a search mission would be launched immediately.
With the identifying information, the missing vessels can also be returned to their owners.
“You’d be amazed at how many paddlecraft and unregistered skiffs and tenders are sitting in harbormasters’ storage waiting for their owners,” McHugh said.
Karwowski said local harbormasters have been handing out the stickers to people who are signing up for moorings and boat slips. The stickers are weatherproof and reflective and must be filled out using a waterproof marker.
The stickers are being issued as part of the Coast Guard’s Operation Paddle Smart, which includes an introductory safety course for kayakers and canoeists, who are particularly at risk of being hit by larger, fast-moving boats.
McHugh said his people have had to pull kayakers out of the way of large ships coming into the power plant through the harbor’s deep-water channel.
Paddlers are encouraged to wear life jackets and have a waterproof first aid kit and a signaling device. Cellphones do not suffice because they are not waterproof, McHugh said. He recommends carrying a waterproof portable marine radio.
“That sport is expanding exponentially,” he said. “We have to look at that as a trend and try to do everything we can to make sure they’re safe.”
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is offering a Paddlesports America course at the Jubilee Yacht Club in Beverly. Cost is $20. For more information contact Bob Amiro at 781-246-6714 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.