We are Semper Paratus.

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

Department of
Homeland Security

District 5SR
Division 23 Flotilla 23-6
Calvert County's
Volunteer Lifesavers

Donald M. Haskin, Flotilla Commander

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Waterway Watch

Waterway Watch

Boating Safety Tip of the Day
Wear a Life Jacket

Wear a life jacket also known as a PFD or Personal Flotation Device.  The life jacket floats, you don’t. A life jacket will save your life. There is no reason not to wear one.

Click this

Paddlers Safety Checklist

Gear and Preparation for a Safe Paddle Trip

to read the article by Alan Sorum on canoe and kayak . The American Canoe Association and the Coast Guard Auxiliary partnered together to produce this in pamphlet form.  Statistically, we paddlers are far more likely to drown or be injured than a . Do not underestimate the danger and do not over estimate your strength and -  especially in , cold water, windy conditions, and strong currents.

Paddlers are as careful planning their trips and having the right safety equipment available as are recreational boaters. In some states, kayaks and canoes must even be registered and pass safety inspections.  The Coast Guard Auxiliary now does Vessel Safety Inspections of paddle craft! Contact the using the link on the menu bar above or visit SafetySeal.net.

Here in Maryland when I take my kayak out I always have my life jacket on and properly secured to my body and the following:

1. A hand-held water pump and bailing sponge.

2. An air powered horn of the type available at a marine store.

3. A visual distress flag that can be tied to a paddle and three flares in a waterproof dry bag.

4. A portable, dunk proof, marine VHF and a cellular telephone in a dry bag.

5. A paddle float. This is a necessity if you do not know how to do a rolling . Practice!

6. Sunglasses, reading glasses, a hat for UV protection.

7. Sunscreen for exposed skin. Do not put it on your forehead.

8. A GPS in waterproof bag especially if I am going to unfamiliar places.

9. We use in rougher water to minimize taking on water.

10.  Take a trash bag you can stow in a water proof compartment to take out your trash and any that you find along the way.

11. Wear the proper clothing for air and water conditions. Weather can be the enemy of returning safely.

My spouse and I only paddle alone when we are in water we can stand in if we turn over and exit the kayaks, otherwise we are always in pairs. Having a partner allows a safe and quicker reentry. Regardless, we have always learned to be mindful of currents and . When the Bay is rough it takes quite a bit more strength to stay afloat and focused.

Use caution entering private harbors in a kayak, canoe, or other small boat.  Larger boats do not often see you or they don’t slow down to minimize the effect of their wake. The entrances to some harbors along the Bay can be churning cauldrons when the Bay is rough, tossing a small kayak side to side. Stay as far to starboard as you can, clear of any recreational motor vessel traffic.

Report any intentional attempts by recreational boaters to swamp your craft. Obtain the vessel registration number and contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police or the Coast Guard.

Be safe in your kayak. Think about arriving alive. Don’t take absurd risks. Use caution in unfamiliar waters. Watch for submerged objects. Maintain an awareness of your depth while in back creeks. Have the skills necessary to get yourself out of a sticky situation.

You might want to consider taking lessons from a certified instructor. The American Canoe Association’s website has information about learning to paddle. Locally there is the Chesapeake Paddler’s Association. This group is affiliated with the ACA. CPA is a safety-first organization for paddlers of ALL skill levels. I (the webmaster) am a member of the Auxiliary and of the CPA.  The Chesapeake Paddlers Association. CPA offers paddling instruction.

Jellyfish: aka/ Chesapeake Bay Sea Nettles

(DISCLAIMER: The following information is NOT INTENDED to be a substitute for medical advice  that you are responsible for obtaining from your own medical doctor. The information regarding the use of colloquial remidies was taken from personal experience and research and  Internet sources. The United States Coast Guard does not endorse nor recommend specific medical treatments but rather encourages boaters to plan ahead for expected  dangers associated with any and all boating and water activities. If you expect to encounter jellyfish during a boating excursion you should wear appropriate protective clothing. You should obtain medical advice prior to your trip and follow the instructions of your doctor if stung. You should be prepared to boat, paddle, or swim from danger and be able to call for assistance using a marine radio. In any life threatening situation you should always call for medical rescue. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for planning and common sense.)

Should you kayak in the Chesapeake Bay or one of its many creeks and harbors you WILL encounter jelly fish. Jelly fish sting. The sting is quite painful to exposed arms and legs. The pain can and will cause great fatigue and frustration and could be life threatening.

The Chesapeake Bay Sea Nettle is special in that conventional sting remedies are just a little different than those remedies for other kinds of jellyfish.

First you need to know how and why jellyfish sting. When your bare arms and legs brush up against the tentacles of a jellyfish the chemicals on your skin trigger the warning mechanisms of the jellyfish. When the chemicals are not present the jellyfish does not fire the stinging barbs.

When the jellyfish does sense you, it releases what are called nematocysts. These poisonous barbs inject venom into you,  the swimmer or unfortunate kayaker. The poison causes extreme pain. I experienced a kayak roll over in bay waters and was stung over most of both legs and feet. Walking to shore was no fun and running home with searing pain was even worse.

Some of the colloquial remedies for sea nettle stings are the same as offered for all jellyfish stings.  Internet medical advice has not caught up with the sea nettle’s sting. Many sites repeat the same general jellyfish information.  Some pharmacists even provide copies of generic remedies to customers that is not applicable to the sea nettle sting.  Our sea nettles are special as you will soon discover.

The jellyfish nematocysts trigger or fire after sensing natural chemicals on your skin. Some of the jellyfish barbs fire right away and others on your body or attached to tentacles stuck on your skin wait to be triggered. By treating your injury incorrectly you can actually compound your discomfort. More on this in a minute.

You will capsize someday. When I did, I just happened to be near shore. My partner was not trained in rescue and at first did not understand the urgency of my situation. The sheer number of stings were preventing me from attempting a self rescue. I had the paddle float and was ready to use it but I didn’t want to spend any additional time in the water!

As in very cold water where hypothermia can set in the severe painful distraction of repeated jellyfish stings is a powerful demotivator.  All I could think of was the easiest way out of the water. There wasn’t an easy way of course. The seventy-five foot walk in neck deep water was slow and tedious, but I was still able to move faster than the person attempting to tow me!

I thank my lucky stars that:

1. I kayak close to shore.

2. I kayak with a partner.

3. I did not lose my head.

4. I was wearing a life jacket.

It is easy to understand how a capsize in sea nettle infested waters could lead others to a more tragic end.

Southern Marylanders should plan for sea nettle stings. There is a lotion called “Sea Safe” that is supposed to mask your skin chemicals from the sea nettle. Wearing the lotion, you won’t trigger the jellyfish stinging mechanism. The best protection, however, is a wet suit.

As far as sting remedies go, I personally encourage you to read the Mayo Clinic page on the subject. Remember that the Chesapeake Bay sea nettle is a special little devil.  Washing your skin with vinegar can actually trigger barbs on your skin that have not already fired.  Upon exiting the water you should wash your skin with sea water and scrape it with a sea shell or sand while doing so. Washing with fresh water can also trigger remaining barbs so use SEA WATER. The products that finally calmed my skin were topical numbing sprays and Adolph’s meat tenderizer. As with any colloquial advice your mileage may vary so I strongly advise reading and understanding the dangers posed to kayakers by sea predators. Kayak fishing is increasing in popularity so you really should understand what you are getting yourself into.

In short, know in advance if jellyfish stings present an allergic hazard to you. See your doctor! Carry your eppy pen and make sure your partners know how to use it when you cannot. Find out if the sea nettles are in season and where they are currently concentrated. Wear appropriate protection against the stings.

Oh yes. Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water along came the . Read about it here.

When will the Coast Guard or DNR Stop a Kayaker?

The most common reason for law enforcement contacting a kayaker are:

1. Paddling without a life jacket.

You will be escorted to a safe port, not necessarily to where you embarked. You may also receive a citation.


Links on this page to outside sources are research starting points intended to benefit our readers and do not constitute an endorsement. The Coast Guard link policy applies to all outside links.

Vessel Safety Check

2012 Vessel Safety Check Decal

The Coast Guard Auxiliary and
the U.S. Power Squadrons
also inspect kayaks
and other paddle craft.

Boat Safe. Boat Smart.
Get the Decal!

Remember the Maryland 25
Dead Maryland Boaters in 2011

Three Maryland boating deaths in 2012. Three sailboat emergencies, 1 death; 1 swimmer death; 1 allision death with two trauma injuries; 1 major injury from gasoline engine fire,

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Our Instagrams
  • A foggy day in Southern Maryland. Good morning shipmates.
  • Wear it!  News media ask the boaters you photograph why they don't. Start the discussion and save a life.
  • Our cold-water survival training was ultimately made possible by the Guardians of  U S Coast Guard Station Annapolis.  Two Guardians hauled each of us onto the deck of a fast boat.  During the training they made sure we were safe.  I am so proud to serve with these men and women. Each one is an outstanding professional.  Thank you Station Annapolis.
  • Once a crew is in the water survival and staying together is key. Chaining together as they do here the crew shares warmth and prolongs life.
  • A face that could be your next door neighbor. Coast Guard Auxiliary members from three Maryland flotillas took their annual cold-water training at Coast Guard Station Annapolis. Bill Smith from the Drum Point Flotilla reflects the serious of his training in his expression. Bill is not new to cold water.
  • To. feller and Bill Smith, Coast Guard Auxiliary, arrive at Coast Guard Station Annapolis for cold-water training.
  • A two-minute lesson that covered finger dexterity after cold water immersion. We placed a hand in cold water while the instructor spoke for two minutes. One we removed our hands we had to pick up the coin on the table. Not as easy as if looks. Try this only with an expert present.
  • Shawn Moore, Auxiliarist was our cold-water instructor.
  • Ray Feller, Auxiliarist  dons his dry suit. The suit provides significant protection in cold water. Having the suit alone is not enough. Knowing how the human body reacts to sudden immersion was the classroom session of our training today.
  • These volunteers attending cold-water survival training today could be your neighbors. Flotillas from Solomons Island to Annapolis were represented today.  Guardians made sure our training was safe. Another reason why I love to say Guardians rock!
Comfortable Lifejackets
Lifejackets are comfortable and they save lives!

Lifejackets are comfortable and they save lives!

Admiral Lee on Bow Riding

Rear Admiral William "Dean" Lee

“You wouldn’t allow your kids to sit on the hood of your car, so why would you allow them to sit on the bow of your boat?”

Rear Admiral Dean Lee, 5th District commander, United States Coast Guard

The Drum Point Poll

The behaviors Maryland boaters need to change most.

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Chesapeake Chatter

The Division 23 Chesapeake Chatter is available at the Division 23 website.


The Blinker Newsletter is available at the Fabulous 5th Southern Website.


The weekly CGUAX Newsletter is available at SITREP.


THE RBS Department's newsletter WAVES - Watercraft and Vessel Safety is available at the RBS website.

eBeacon The CGAUXA eBeacon Magazine.


SafetySeal.net Newsletter

Uptop in Operations

UPTOP in Operations Newsletter

Navigator Magazine

Navigator Auxiliary Magazine

Interpreter News

Interpreter News

Education Connection

Education Connection

Wear it Maryland

Always wear your life jacket!

Always wear your life jacket!

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NOTICE/DISCLAIMER Links to non-Coast Guard entities are not under the control of the United States Coast Guard or the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, and are provided for the convenience of our customers. They do not, in any way, constitute an endorsement of the linked pages or any commercial or private issues or products presented there. We cannot make any warranty or representation concerning the content of these sites, or secondary sites from the pages to which they link.

Lightning Kills

Lightning Kills

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