Hours of manpower and resources from all over New England were used to locate a kayaker in Maine Monday morning. The problem is that she wasn't actually missing.
The Coast Guard had been searching for the kayaker in Portland's Casco Bay since Sunday night. Another boater noticed a submerged kayak, drifting near Fort Gorges.
When the Coast Guard examined the kayak, they found a damaged cell phone and watch inside a bag.
"That's a sign of recent use," said Jeff Bryant, the Coast Guard's search and rescue coordinator. "That immediately raised our apprehension level."
The kayak was not labeled with a name or phone number, and officials had to assume there was a boater in distress. They used several boats, had patrols on foot, and called in an air craft from Cape Cod to assist in the search.
Sometime Monday morning, they heard from a woman from Saco, Maine, who said she was the kayaker they were looking for.
The woman, who the Coast Guard did not identify, said she was an inexperienced kayaker who went out on the water with her boyfriend Sunday night. At some point, she fell out of the kayak, and swam back to shore, at times holding on to her boyfriend's boat.
Paddling instructors say there are several steps paddlers should take to avoid this situation.
Zack Anchors, owner of Portland Paddle, says paddle craft should be labeled with a name and phone number, in the event that the boat is found unattended.
He said every paddler should submit a "float plan," or an explanation of their trip to someone on shore.
The Coast Guard adds that paddlers should let local agencies know if you have "self-rescued" and left your boat behind to prevent an unnecessary search.
If boaters do not take these steps, the Coast Guard will expend valuable resources to conduct a search.
"This is a clear message to all the boaters out there that we take it seriously," said Bryant.
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