Monday evening around 6pm, my wife, Amy, and I paddled our kayaks near the 6-mph marker at the mouth of Valentine Creek on the Severn River. We were enjoying warm spring air and calm waters, our exercise—and temporary mental health break—from the Covid 19 pandemic. As we floated along, we watched two small crafts pass each other from opposite directions. One boat continued down river, while the up-river craft turned and headed our way, approaching on plane. At first, we separately concluded the boat would throttle back and turn to avoid us at the last moment. Perhaps it was meant as a joke--to splash us, or to provide a nice rolling wake. Seconds later, we assessed real danger. Though we hollered and waved to get the skipper’s attention, the vessel’s noise muffled our cries. The 20’ center console boat struck the front of my kayak and grazed the front tip of Amy’s kayak as it plowed past. By a stroke of luck, the broadside positioning of our kayaks resulted in less than direct hits. Miraculously, neither of us was hurt—only shaken and wet—and neither kayak capsized! The boater heard our shouts, and then understood what had happened. He slowed and called out to ask whether we were ok. The boater apologized profusely, acknowledging he simply never saw us against the blinding sun. We truly believe he did not see us in his path, and there was no intent to harm. As the shock of our close call sank in, we considered ourselves lucky to be alive and uninjured. My kayak took the brunt of the impact and needs to be replaced. In hindsight, we’re amazed that we didn’t become a tragic Chesapeake Bay boating statistic.
Our message here is two-fold:
Boaters, when the sun is at an intense angle, wear sunglasses and a cap to shield the glare. Have a second pair of eyes spot for you (in this instance, there was another adult on board.) Anticipate what is in your approaching path before you turn, and for goodness sake--slow down!
Kayakers, despite having right-of-way, you’re defenseless against an oncoming boat. You likely can’t maneuver or bail in time to avert disaster. Never assume boaters can see you, even in bright color kayaks and vests—especially during the regular boating season. We’re installing raised safety flags on the back of our kayaks to increase our visibility to others.
Stay safe out there!
— Ben Levitt, ABI Section 4 Rep