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Identify Your Boat: helping the Coastguard and RNLI

Amelia Cocca

Approximately one third of all emergency call outs to canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are to those that appear abandoned or have come adrift. Yet the Paddler is perfectly safe.

– HM Coastguard
Rnli Boat

The background behind the campaign

In October 2019 a boat was washed up in surf in The Bristol Channel (see attached picture). No identification was found leading to two RNLI stations and a Coastguard helicopter being put on standby. Closer inspection found river debris of sticks and leaves in the boat suggesting it had been lost on a river but washed into the sea by recent heavy rain fall. 

The incident highlights the need for all boats, not just those that may be used on the sea to carry the name and contact details of the owner.

Just one call could have resolved this incident, avoided a potential air and sea search and, of course, in this case the paddler who lost their boat would have got it back!

The public are encouraged to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard if they suspect someone is in trouble. This regularly triggers a full scale air and sea rescue involving the deployment of significant resources from multiple agencies.

However false alarms are a huge issue for the Coastguard and RNLI who have asked paddlers to help them resolve the problem. The solution is simple: have your name and contact number visible in your boat.

The benefits are:

Massive savings in resources to the emergency services. One quick call would bring the situation to a close.

If you do genuinely lose your craft, and it has your contact details – you will get it back!

Simply write your name and contact number in your boat with a permanent marker pen.


Use one of the laminated boat identification stickers produced by The RNLI to support this campaign. These will be distributed to British Canoeing and National Association members when you renew your membership. Please note that due to the current working arrangements we are not currently distributing the stickers in membership packs. The stickers will be sent in packs when normal service resumes. 

Alternatively further stickers can be ordered, free of charge, through the Marine Coastguard Agency web site MCA website directly here.

These can be stuck in the cockpit or inside one of the hatches of the kayak and are there to provide basic information to help identify the craft, paddler and promote safety.