The last post in this space was about safety and how preparedness, thinking ahead, and solid risk assessment can make paddling a long, skinny boat on Gitchee Gumee a relatively safe endeavor. My paltry efforts however, pale in comparison to a local Bayfield County guy who was honored nationally a couple weeks back for his efforts to inform and educate kayakers in the Apostle Islands on how to prepare and paddle safely in the National Lakeshore.
Chris Bandy coordinates the Coast Guard Auxiliary's "Paddle Smart" program in the AINL and has done so since 2012. He was named the 2012 Coast Guard Auxiliairist of the year at the Coast Guards National Conference in San Diego last month. This would be for the entire country boys and girls, which includes the Atlantic, Pacific, Bering Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The guy presenting him with the award is Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr., Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. The complete story can be read in this link. If you have ever talked to the friendly volunteers at Meyers Beach and Little Sand Bay and been offered one of the orange kayak emergency contact decals before launching, Chris is the guy that coordinated this effort. He also helped execute a major kayak search and rescue exercise involving the Coast Guard, the Park Service, and at least a couple buddies of mine as the 'victims', an exercise that came off really well. While I don't know if he was personally on the water, I spoke with two boats with Coast Guard Auxiliary personnel that were also safety boating along with the kayaks at this years Point to LaPointe Open Water Swim. Strong work for sure and it made a difference; this year had the lowest number of Coast Guard involved paddle sport search and rescues in the past four years.
I tip my Tilley hat and salute Chris Bandy and all the other volunteers who cheerfully endure the 'don't worry, I know what I'm doing' responses from paddlers who obviously don't, given their equipment and (lack of) safety gear, as they attempt to launch into the worlds largest lake. We can help by reinforcing the advice that these folks try to impart to rookie paddlers and thanking them with a 'nice job' and 'well done' when we encounter them at the launches. It is pretty obvious from the empirical data on SAR events that it's working. Lets all help them keep it going!
Photos by Auxiliarist Joseph Giannattasio