Coast Guard partnering with local organizations for watercraft inspections for Safe Boating Week

William Bell and Tom Fydenkevez of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary inspect a tandem kayak on Monday morning with Brian Pearson, owner of Adventure East, in Sunderland.

William Bell and Tom Fydenkevez of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary inspect a tandem kayak on Monday morning with Brian Pearson, owner of Adventure East, in Sunderland. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Tom Fydenkevez of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary puts a vessel safety check sticker on a tandem kayak at Adventure East in Sunderland on Monday.

Tom Fydenkevez of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary puts a vessel safety check sticker on a tandem kayak at Adventure East in Sunderland on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Tom Fydenkevez of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary checks out safety equipment Brian Pearson at Adventure East uses on his water trips.

Tom Fydenkevez of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary checks out safety equipment Brian Pearson at Adventure East uses on his water trips. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Kayaks wait for water on a rack at Adventure East in Sunderland on Monday morning.

Kayaks wait for water on a rack at Adventure East in Sunderland on Monday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 05-20-2024 6:16 PM

Modified: 05-20-2024 6:45 PM


SUNDERLAND — As people load up their kayaks, canoes and boats ahead of Memorial Day weekend, local recreation company Adventure East and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary are advising folks to keep safety in mind during National Safe Boating Week.

In 2022, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 4,040 accidents and 636 deaths resulting from recreational boating activities. Boaters of all types — especially paddlers in kayaks and canoes, as well as those on paddle boards — are urged to get their equipment inspected, properly prepare for boating and follow safety tips to ensure everyone has a fun and, most importantly, safe experience. National Safe Boating Week is observed the week before Memorial Day each year, as the holiday typically marks the arrival of warmer weather, which ushers in the recreational boating season. This year it is being observed from May 18 through May 24.

“Kayakers, paddlecraft as we call them, don’t think they’re boaters,” said William Bell, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary for 43 years. “Things happen quick in small boats, that’s why in a kayak it’s more important [to be prepared]. … Good swimmers think they can put a life jacket on in the water, it’s difficult.”

To mark the occasion in the Pioneer Valley, where paddlecraft make up the vast majority of boaters in the region’s rivers, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is partnering with Sunderland-based outdoor recreation company Adventure East to inspect the business’ fleet of boats and then with the Sunderland Public Library to offer inspections of the public’s vessels.

On Friday, May 24, from 3 to 6 p.m., folks are invited to bring their kayaks, canoes and other boats to the parking lot behind the Sunderland Public Library at 20 School St., where Coast Guard Auxiliary members like Bell and Tom Fydenkevez, who also previously served decades on the Selectboard, will inspect the vessels free of charge. Adventure East will also be on hand to share details about their boating safety procedures, additional paddlecraft safety tips and great locations for people to bring their boats.

If your boat is in compliance, you will receive a vessel safety check decal for your boat to indicate you are in full compliance with federal and state boating laws. If deficiencies are found, a written report will be put together.

Safety tips

While it may be obvious, a key point for all boaters and passengers is the importance of wearing a life jacket or other form of personal flotation device, as Fydenkevez noted 75% of all fatal boat accidents involve drowning. In 85% of those drownings, the person who died was not wearing a life jacket. Three in four drownings also involved vessels less than 21 feet in length, according to the Coast Guard. He added that life jackets should fit properly and high-visibility ones are more effective.

“You know, the black and the blue [life jackets] look really good, but if you’re out there, it’s nice to have a red one or brightly colored one. … Coloration is really important,” Fydenkevez said.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Warmth, hospitality drive new Turners Falls brunch restaurant
Greenfield restaurant to be featured on America’s Best Restaurants
GCC union votes ‘no confidence’ in president, provost
Franklin County’s YMCA Tumbling Tigers sending 20 athletes to compete in 2024 YMCA Gymnastics Nationals
Greenfield Police Department adding downtown substation
Real Estate Transactions: June 21, 2024

As for additional items and equipment, all boaters should have a personal ID on them and it is recommended to have some sort of identification on the vessel. This identification should have a phone number on it, so if a boater is safe, but separated from their boat, first responders aren’t sent on an unnecessary search.

Paddlecraft boaters are advised to have an additional paddle or oar, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a registered beacon that can be attached to a boat to track their location, and food and water. Boaters are advised to leave alcohol on the shore, as its use is listed as the “leading-known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents,” according to the Coast Guard.

“People think they’re on the water, ‘What could happen to me?’” Fydenkevez said of many people’s mindsets when getting in or on a boat.

Beyond equipment, and much like going for a hike, the public is advised to have a “float plan,” where you inform a family member, friend or other responsible party of your plans, which includes where you’re going and the expected time you’ll return. That way, authorities can be notified if you do not come back.

Other tips include dressing for the water, not the weather, because even if the weather is going to be above 90 degrees, water temperatures can still be dangerously low.

This time of year in particular, the water temperatures are still in the low 60s, “so you don’t have an unlimited amount of time,” Fydenkevez said. The National Weather Service notes “cold shock can be just as severe and dangerous” from 60-degree water as it is with 32-degree water.

As members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Adventure East prepare to inspect boats on Friday, Adventure East founder Brian Pearson said his business has gotten their life jackets inspected and they get all 45 kayaks, 15 canoes and two giant canoes inspected by the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

“A lot of people kind of start their pathway into paddling with Adventure East, so we have a lot of people who may have fear or anxiety about starting a new thing that has more risk. … The Coast Guard says we know what we’re doing, which is a huge thing,” Pearson said. “It’s great to have that partnership and their interest in helping and supporting us.”

For more information about National Safe Boating Week, visit the Coast Guard’s website at bit.ly/4bsNS36.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.