Kayaks Adrift Prompts Search off Salem Harbor

Two unmanned and unmarked kayaks are on deck after launching an extensive search near Salem, Massachusetts, Sunday, July 3, 2016. When a local lobsterman located the kayaks, he notified the authorities. (Coast Guard photo)
Two unmanned and unmarked kayaks are on deck after launching an extensive search near Salem, Massachusetts, Sunday, July 3, 2016. When a local lobsterman located the kayaks, he notified the authorities. (Coast Guard photo)

The Coast Guard was searching for what may be 2 people in the water near Salem on Sunday, July 3. At about 6:45 p.m., a local lobsterman notified authorities when he discovered 2 unmanned and unmarked kayaks adrift in Salem Harbor near Misery Island.

Unsure whether people were in distress or if the kayaks simply drifted out from land, and with no identifying information on either, per protocol the Coast Guard launched an extensive search stretching from Manchester Bay to the Salem Harbor entrance.

A 47’ Motor Lifeboat crew from Station Gloucester and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew from Air Station Cape Cod are blanketing the area but have no sightings or additional leads.

“With the amount of boating traffic in the area and people on the beach, they likely would have seen if someone was in trouble,” said Petty Officer First Class Dean Drake, an operations specialist at the Sector Boston command center.

“We could reach out to the owners if there was contact info on the boards; but because there isn’t, we have to assume someone is in distress,” he said.

He said responders obviously hope no one is in distress. But if not, the search effort is a costly reminder for paddleboard, canoe, and kayak owners, as well as rental companies, to ensure their crafts are marked with detailed contact info to avoid triggering an unnecessary search.

“There are if-found stickers available from the Coast Guard, but even a name and number written in permanent marker would help us,” said Drake.

The hourly expense of operating a Jayhawk helicopter is roughly $11,000 and a Motor Lifeboat is estimated at nearly $3,000 per hour.