Kayakers can improve their odds of staying out of troubled waters

ELLISON BAY – Kayaking experts say changing wind conditions can cause mishaps on the water.

But there are ways to improve your odds of staying out of trouble.

Kayakers paddled in and out of Rowleys Bay Friday afternoon.

“It was really wavy out there,” said Emily Foley of Oshkosh.

Foley fell out of her kayak during a guided tour, but returned to shore safely.

However, it’s not uncommon for people to get into trouble in the waters around Door County.

“More often than you realize,” said Marc Champeau, an 18-year-veteran of the Coast Guard Auxillary.

Champeau was part of Coast Guard search and rescue operations for nearly 20 years and says they can be tedious.

“You’re out there for a long period of time you’re wondering if you’re going to find them,” said Champeau.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports 113 kayak accidents happened nationwide in 2013.

The Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard says its crews respond to at least a dozen kayak accidents a year.

Kayak instructor Tim Pflieger says it’s important to be aware of changing conditions.

“”People get into conditions that are beyond their skill level, and so when that happens, you get challenged, not only to get out of it, but the whole cumulative effect of I’m tired now,” said Pflieger.

He recommends a lesson before you shove off.

“Understand how to get in and out of the craft, number two how to paddle the craft, and number three what to do if you have a capsize,” Pflieger said.

Kayakers should tell someone where they plan to begin and end their trip. Wear a life jacket at all times. And bring water and a snack.

Pflieger also suggests bringing along a communication device, such as a whistle or a cell phone in a waterproof case.

The rescued kayakers reportedly did not take a cell phone on their trip because they did not have a case to keep it from getting wet.

Pflieger says the good news is they rafted up, which means they kept their boats side by side until rescuers arrived.

“It was incredible that they were thinking enough to stay together,” said Pflieger. “More visible from the air, more visible from the water and you can communicate with each other and keep each other calm.”

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