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Boating Safely in High Traffic and Small Spaces

Navigating high-traffic harbor areas poses unique challenges for boaters, especially when it comes to avoiding collisions between boats, paddleboards, kayaks and other vessels that roam the calmer waters.

Expert research outlined in the article “Visibility Factors in Small Boat Collisions,” by Robson Forensic, offers valuable insights on how boaters can enhance safety on the water and minimize the risk of accidents involving kayaks and small vessels. For the full article, please visit


The research, based on on-the-water tests involving volunteers in kayaks and powerboats, underscores the importance of early detection. One key finding reveals that kayaks may not be visible to powerboats until they are approximately a quarter of a mile away. The sooner a small vessel is spotted, the better the chances of avoiding a collision.


A significant observation from the study indicates that 75% of powerboat operators first noticed the “paddle flash” when encountering kayaks. Notably, a white or light-colored paddle blade significantly enhances visibility compared to a dark blade. To further enhance visibility, experts suggest adding paddle tip reflectors to kayak paddles.

For kayakers, implementing safety measures is paramount.


Recommendations include carrying an audible signaling device, wearing fluorescent life vests or shirts, opting for paddles with white or light-colored blades, avoiding kayaking in areas with high boat traffic whenever possible, and utilizing flags that can be mounted on kayaks to increase visibility.


Owners of larger boats also play a crucial role in preventing collisions with kayaks and small vessels. Key practices include wearing sunglasses to aid in spotting smaller craft, maintaining a proper lookout at all times and exercising heightened vigilance in areas where encounters with smaller boats are likely.


By incorporating these guidelines into your boating safety practices and remaining vigilant while navigating high-traffic harbor areas, boaters can significantly reduce the risk of collisions and ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience for all waterway users.

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