Law enforcement in Alger County and the U.S. Coast Guard are working to improve the safety of kayakers on Lake Superior. They held a class with several law enforcement agencies to see how they can minimize the rescues needed on the lake. It's all about being prepared. Officials say that the number of water rescues on Lake Superior has been on the rise in recent years, so these men and women of various law enforcement and government agencies learned how to teach safety to kayakers. "You need the appropriate equipment as well as the skills to be out here so that if something does happen, something unexpected, a capsize, the weather changes, etc., that you can stay safe out there," said coastal kayaking instructor Sam Crowley from the American Canoe Association. Crowley is also a volunteer with the Hiawatha Water Trail. Sam Crowley says that kayakers need appropriate clothing for cold water, like a wet suit. They should also have a means of communicating and getting back into their kayak in case of capsizing, but they also need to have the right kayak.
He says that what you want to use on Lake Superior is a sea kayak, not a recreational kayak. It has a smaller cockpit, deck lines so you can pull yourself in if you capsize, and it also has front and rear hatches. Crowley also recommends remaining aware of the land and marine forecasts before you go out on the water. They sometimes differ and conditions can sometimes change rapidly. "It's the education for our officers who may never have been around kayaks...so that they can get the information that they need when they're out there doing patrols on the waterways," said Alger County Sheriff Robert Hughes. Also in attendance were representatives from the Munising Police Department, the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and the United States Coast Guard post in Marquette.
According to Crowley, the law says kayakers only need two things: a life jacket and a noise-producing device, like a whistle or foghorn, but he says that for safest kayaking, you need a more complete package.
"It's going to be not only safer on the water, but funner. This way you can avoid the rescue, be able to go out...If something unexpected happens, handle it and then continue paddling and continue having fun," Crowley said.
From here, local law enforcement plans to trickle down what they've learned to better educate kayakers on the lake.