Massachusetts may pass a kayak safety law

I was interested to see Sweet Home Massachusetts may soon have a kayak safety law. According to this article:

Kayakers would be required to wear life jackets and be equipped with a compass and whistle under a kayaking safety bill moving through the Legislature.

The measure, which passed the House this week, would also require kayaking schools to teach and practice the method of bailing out of an overturned kayak before allowing students to head to open water. It now goes to the Senate.

I would be curious to hear what folks think about this. I find myself bothered by it, and not just on the grounds of libertarian political leanings. I worry that a) having these rules creates a false sense of security (“I got my PFD, I can take those waves”) and b) having safety tools doesn’t mean knowing how to use them. One of the drivers of the law was the case of two women who got lost in the fog off Cape Cod a couple years back. A compass probably would have helped – they probably know the Cape was North, but it might not be so simple. What if there were a current at play?

I guess my beef is that trying to substitute legislation for respect for the water and a basic nautical sense is a bad idea. The former removes incentive, in many people, to develop the latter. Yes, a compass would have helped those women, but more effective would have been developing the thought processes that says a) “I don’t know these waters well,” b) “its somewhat foggy now and I don’t know what could roll in,” and c) “when in doubt, stay in sight of shore.”

I agree that wet exits should be taught – I think all reputable shops do that as a condition of renting any closed cookpit boat – but again, if its is a mandatory “check this one off the list” thing then will it get the attention it needs to? I think we need to devote energy towards making the public aware of prudent practices and give a clear list of what a good school should teach. That puts someone in places that are teaching what’s right because its right and thus giving attention to the matter.

I would be curious to know what others think. I place a huge premium on respect for nature, and the idea of doing something to dull that respect in a person really rubs me the wrong way.

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