Coast Guard Recommends Marking All Floating Gear


Have you ever sent the Coast Guard chasing its tail unintentionally? Even if you haven’t, check your gear.

While many boaters are safely at home tucked in bed, the often-volunteer rescuers are out at night searching for them because they found their dinghy, life jacket, or even boat. So the message is: put your name and contact number on anything that floats.

A recent surge in incidents involving “found” small craft — some of which sparked search-and-rescue operations — underscores the need for boat owners to carry out this very simple task.

The advice from Lt. Nick Barrow of the U.S. Coast Guard, which would no doubt be seconded by most rescue organizations around the world, comes after the discovery of a life jacket and a small, unmarked craft near Wood Island off Biddeford, Maine. A few weeks earlier, a sailing dinghy was found on a shore in a nearby area with the sail partially raised.

“Reports of a craft adrift with no one on board average 100 per year, about one-seventh of the search-and-rescue cases we run annually,” said Barrow.

An average two-hour investigation could involve considerable activity at the Coast Guard’s command center in South Portland, along with the launching of both aircraft and watercraft, even when no other signs of distress, such as a mayday call, are present.

While the scope and cost of search efforts can vary, the one off Wood Island involved a Coast Guard Falcon jet, a helicopter, a boat and command center personnel, along with a Maine Marine patrol boat and local law enforcement. Preliminary estimates put the cost as high as $25,000.

“A lot of these cases entail a great deal of uncertainly, and we do the best we can to make a good faith effort,” Barrow said. “Some simple steps can save unneeded searches, and we can make sure that no one is in distress.”

Contact information on a boat and its equipment can help in a couple ways.

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Author: Blue Water Sailing