I am ashamed to admit that I have not wet any of the kayak hulls in our fleet yet this spring. The Explorer and Avocet made it up to Washburn this weekend but poor decisions on work/play interaction with the weather conspired against any paddling. If you want an excellent review of the Bayfield Peninsula weekend weather, read Julie Buckles Honest Dog blog post. If you would like to read about a very sound US Coast Guard regulation, click on Bryan Hansels Paddling Light blog link. If you would like to read about a stupid waste of time regulation, the kind Minnesota is famous for, one which will get you a misdemeanor ticket in a couple years, just click here.
Some of you know that when I'm not armed with kayak paddle, rifle, bike handle bars, or ski poles that I'm in the label business. I deal mainly with medical device labeling but we do print a 'sticker' or two from time to time. Things like ladders and 5 gallon plastic pails make me smile a bit and even get a little excited. A ladder has a dozen or so government mandated labels on it. When the universal 'don't let your toddler get stuck upside down in this pail' label came out I smiled a bit more. Our latest boating rule, spelled out in its entirety in the link above, does not have me smiling however, it has me shaking my head. They want us to plop yet another label on our boats, subjecting we Minnesotans to yet more ridicule from our friends on the east bank of the St Croix. This sticker will remind us to check the many spots on our kayaks, eg. live wells, propellers, trailer axles, trolling motors, etc., where milfoil or Zebra Mussels could hang out. We will get a warning for non compliance this year and next but, like many rules implemented in the 'heat the water up with the frog in it vs. throwing it into hot water' method, it will be a misdemaenor with fines and suspensions in the 2014 boating season.
Will it make any difference? Will people thoughtfully view that sticker as they launch and recover kayaks from the lakes and rivers? Will a mental flash occur, reminding them to carefully inspect their kayaks for aquatic hitchikers? I think it will be just as effective as Jerry Ford's WIN button. That of course, reminded Americans that they needed to Whip Inflation Now, not just sit around and wait for the government to do something. I saw the new sticker. In it's defense, it is not garish or brightly colored nor will it stick out. Its as bland and boring as, well, a Jerry Ford presidential speech. It has a secondary sticker that you are instructed to put on your kayak trailer winch, the one you use to haul your kayak out of the water. This orders us to 'Check the Drain Plug! Please wear a lifejacket'. The main part that goes on the boat has two sections, 'You must.......' and 'You may not......'. The one redeeming characteristic is that it doesn't need to be placed where we can see it. Being a letter of the law guy but not necessarily a spirit of the law guy, mine will be stuck behind my seat. Getting checked by the warden will necessitate me popping my spray skirt and leaning forward in a precarious position to reveal the sticker and hopefully not my ass crack. I hope I don't go over......
On the other hand having the trio of signaling device that the Coast Guard requires on the Big Lake makes complete sense. Day and night visual as well as audio signals are just good safety common sense. I would add one item to the audio portion; a .357 magnum revolver, 4" barrel to fit snugly in your knee tube. This it to alert high speed boaters of your presence. The .357 Mag is a round proven by many State Patrols to be capable of penetrating an engine block. You never know when a power boat might be approaching at high speed, its driver sipping a beer while
studying the 'You must....' and 'You may not....' on the invasive species sticker on his foredeck. I would also suggest, as does Sherri in the comments on Bryan's blog post, to pick up the little orange flare pistol. They seem to hold up longer, perform more reliably and are tons more fun than pulling the string on the Orion flares.
I have three boats that need new registration, $21.50 for three years, funds that go directly to needed improvements in kayak launches, parking areas for kayak vehicl...........Oh hell, we all know it goes to snowmobile trails and making launch areas more friendly to tandem truck pickups with trailered bass boats but WTF. I will get my three invasive species stickers, stick them on the backs of my seats, and wait for the wardens and volunteer launch watchers. All joking aside, we do need to rinse our hulls, check any hidden spots per my 2008 blog post linked above. I just don't think that this sticker is going to make one bit of difference. Its personal responsibility and that alone that will make the inspection process succeed or fail.