Imagine if you found a kayak floating alone on the water with a paddle and PFD in the cockpit but no paddler in sight. There are a lot of reasons why this could happen: maybe someone is in the water, maybe they are stranded somewhere, or maybe the kayak decided to slip off of its dock and go for a little adventure on its own. You’re faced with a scary situation and you have very little information to pass on to authorities to aid in their search for a possible missing person…This is when a Vessel ID Sticker can come to the rescue!
What is a Vessel ID Sticker?
A Vessel ID Sticker is a small, orange sticker that contains the owner’s name, primary, and secondary telephone numbers to help identify the owner of the kayak should the kayak be found floating with a ghost-rider somewhere.
How do Vessel ID Stickers Work?
Simply place a Vessel ID sticker in a conspicuous location on your kayak, fill out the contact information with a permanent, waterproof marker, and voila! Now if someone were to find your kayak floating off on its own they have some contact information to pass on to authorities. The best place to put these stickers is on the deck of your kayak near the cockpit so that they are very easy to locate. Also, consider using the phone number of your float plan holder as the secondary phone number in order to lead authorities to more specific information should they be unable to contact you at the primary number.
Why are Vessel ID Stickers Important for Kayakers?
- They save lives. If you’re separated from your kayak (in the water or stranded on land) and in need of help then the person who finds your kayak could use the sticker to obtain critical information that could assist the authorities in locating you and expediting your rescue.
- They prevent unnecessary searches. There is no need for authorities to activate a search and rescue in the case that you are safe and your kayak simply slipped off of the dock. Searches cost a lot of money, divert critical resources away from where they may be needed, and pose significant risks to rescuers. Here is an example of a search for a “missing” kayaker that could have been prevented had the kayak been outfitted with vessel ID stickers
- They can aid in returning a kayak to its owner. It’s a good idea to place a second Vessel ID Sticker in an inconspicuous place within your kayak (inside a hatch, cockpit, ect.) This can offer you another opportunity beyond the HIN to identify your kayak in the case that it was stolen.
Where do I get a Vessel ID Sticker?
The best place to get these vessel ID stickers is by contacting your local USCG Auxiliary flotilla. These folks are very dedicated to the safety of recreational boaters and will provide the stickers free of charge. Other possible options include:
- Your Local United State Power Squadron (Operation Paddle Smart)
- Local Kayak and Canoe Shops
- Your Local Harbor Master
Don’t forget to File a Float Plan!
Vessel ID Stickers offer an additional layer of protection but they should never serve as a substitute for a formal float plan. The float plan provides searchers with critical details that will aid them in locating you quickly and efficiently!
Happy and Safe Paddling!
Note: This post was first written by Kayak Dave for Kayaking.org and was published under the title “Protect yourself and your kayak with vessel ID stickers.”