Coast Guard say it was pure luck to spot kayaker in trouble

An unidentified man is safe and dry tonight after being plucked from East Grand Traverse Bay Friday morning.

An unidentified man is safe and dry tonight after being plucked from East Grand Traverse Bay Friday morning.

The Coast Guard said the unidentified man's kayak overturned in strong winds and waves nearly three miles off the shore.

The rescue aircrew was on another search and rescue operation when they just happened to spot the man clinging to his overturned kayak.

"This is a case of us being in the right place at the right time for this individual". "It's purely lucky that we stumbled across him he happened to be in distress, we happened to be right there and if it hadn't been for our rescue swimmer looking out his side of the aircraft and spotting him he could still be out there treading water," said Commander Chris Chase of Air Station Traverse City.

To highlight just how hard it is to find a lone kayaker in the water, Chase said it was challenging to find the man even after they had already spotted him once. "We came back around and had a little bit of difficulty finding him just with all the waves and the seas that are out there today."

The kayaker was flown back to the Coast Guard station but did not need any medical attention.

The Coast Guard recommends the following safety gear for all paddlers, no matter what type, how long or short the trip, or wherever the destination:

  • Life jacket - A life jacket is one of a paddlerâ??s primary pieces of safety gear. Any life jacket worn is better than none at all. However, the Coast Guard recommends paddlers use life jackets that are inherently buoyant rather than inflatable, which makes reentering a paddlecraft, especially a sit-inside kayak, easier in the event of a roll-over. Life jackets should be brightly colored to increase visibility to boaters in power and sail craft.

  • VHF-FM marine radio - Paddlers are encouraged to invest in a waterproof, hand-held VHF-FM marine radio as their primary means of distress alerting on the water. Communication via VHF-FM radio provides superior alerting capabilities compared to cell phones. When a mayday is sent out via VHF-FM radio, it is a broadcast and not just a one-to-one communication; any nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance.

  • Personal locator beacon - A personal locator beacon is a compact device that is clipped to a boater, normally on the life jacket he is wearing. In the U.S., users are required by law to directly register their PLB in the 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database at: or by calling 1-888-212-SAVE.

    Other users can register beacons in their country's national beacon registration database or, if no national database is available, in the International Beacon Registration Database at Once activated in a distress situation, the PLB transmits a 406 MHz signal to the International Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System, which provides distress alert and location data for search and rescue operations around the world. When a 406 MHz beacon signal is received, search and rescue personnel can retrieve information from a registration database. This includes the beacon owner's contact information, emergency contact information, and vessel/aircraft identifying characteristics. Having this information allows the Coast Guard, or other rescue personnel, to respond appropriately.

Below are additional safety tips the Coast Guard recommends for all paddlers:

  • Paddlers should always check the weather forecast before paddling and should dress for the water temperature, rather than the air temperature. At times this might mean wearing wet or dry suits while paddling.

  • A float plan should be completed and left with someone who is not going with the paddlers. A float plan is a lifesaving device on paper and provides emergency responders with valuable information they would need in order to search for a distressed or overdue boater. Information on a float plan and how to obtain a blank float plan can be found at

  • Paddlers should resist the temptation to paddle alone and should instead paddle with a partner or in groups. This reduces risk to an individual in the event of an emergency. Paddling in groups increases the chances of being seen by powerboat operators and sail craft in the vicinity.

  • Paddlers need to understand their physical limitations and endurance. Paddling can be strenuous exercise, and paddlers should be physically fit and know techniques for self-rescue, as well as how to rescue fellow paddlers.

  • Paddlers need to understand the limitations of their paddlecraft. There are different types of paddlecraft design. Some kayaks are designed for touring and are capable of carrying significant amounts of gear for longer trips. These types of kayaks may cost several thousand dollars. Others, such as inexpensive, entry-level kayaks, are generally designed for protected waters, near-shore waters or water such as that found on lakes and slow moving rivers when paddling trips will be of shorter duration.