Licenses for paddling Canoes, Kayaks, & SUPs proposed - WA state bill?

The GCW

Paddler
Joined
Oct 4, 2009
Messages
124
Did I misinterpret:
If I take the course and pay $10 then go paddle in the ocean in a t-shirt and a missing rear cockpit lid, for miles, I'm ok.

But if I go out with a drysuit, responsible gear of every noticeable kind, charts on the deck, etc, but don't pay them their demand, I'm in trouble?

-0-

I'm glad I'm exempt being from Colorado when I'm in Washington. -That's right, No?
The world is not crazy enough.
 

mick_allen

Paddler & Moderator
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May 15, 2005
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3,253
Well, in the 1st scenario you would also have to have the cardboard card tucked in your front pocket plus a lifejacket secured in the closed front hatch [as it might float away from the rear opened one]. Also you'd have to make sure that you were the one that lost the rear lid or there's always the actual possibility that whoever else opened it could be charged with murder if you didn't make it.
 

SalishSeaNior

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Nov 15, 2020
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Okanagan Valley, Canada
I very much think that the metric has changed since many of us began kayaking. Used to be, 60's, 70's, 80's, that only the very adventurous folk took up what was considered by most extreme sports like climbing, backcountry skiing and yes ocean kayaking. They were relatively new sports and populated by people who were passionate about them. Equipment, such as kayaks were specialty items that had to be sought out. I remember when I began ocean kayaking, we often built our own boats and the manufacturers like The Bose Bros, Neckar, Scheicher, etc. were just getting started. A kayak on the water up the coast was rare enough that fishing boats and tugs would drop by to have a look and a chat.

There were no such things as cell phones or modern search and rescue groups such as Coast Guard Auxillary, etc. either. Back then, motos such as Cougarmeats "paddling out is optional; paddling back is not": or my own groups; "I'd rather die than be rescued": while somewhat tongue in cheek, spoke to the truth. We had those motos or mantras for a reason, recognition of both the risks and of personal responsibility to be safe and "take care of ourselves". We truly believed that you don't go out unless you can survive and get back on your own. Now, all these formerly "extreme sports" are considered recreational activities. The plethora of cheap rotomolded "kayaks" available means pretty much anyone can buy one and head out. Much too often without a clue about the risks, the weather, the necessary survival skills, or the necessary equipment,

To me, it appears that there are many more people out there doing things that have risk without thought or preparation. There is also the rampant social media trend of doing something "cool" and then posting about your adventures on-line for the primary purpose of seeking attention or recognition. Every week, and I mean literally every week, on the news, there are several reports of yet another rescue of unprepared hikers in the mountains north of Vancouver. The North Shore Rescue Managers routinely give an overview of what the rescued did wrong and plead for people to be prepared if they choose to go out. Helicopters flying into the North Shore Mountains to rescue ignorant recreational citizens, lots of money, tiome and resources spent on folk who have no clue. The same thing is happening here in the Interior, albeit less frequently.

Final word about the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands of Washington. Those waters are some of the most technical, potentially dangerous on the mid Coast in my opinion. Lots of channels and passes, strong currents, huge changes in underwater geography and often strong winds on top of that. Hale passage between Lummi Island and Gooseberry Point for instance can get very strong currents rising over shallow shelves, with opposing winds, it can get very rough in a hurry. Strong rips often form off the northwest side of the island near Lego Bay. It can look calm as a mill pond, but looks are deceiving and this is just one of hundreds of dangerous places in these Islands. So, while not a fan of more and more regulation, I think I can understand where the drive to regulate is coming from.

My two bits on the topic for what it may be worth.

Cheers, Rick
 

SalishSeaNior

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Location
Okanagan Valley, Canada
Alex wrote:

"Other states have upheld upheld statutes that allow law enforcement to randomly board vessels without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Such laws have been upheld as reasonable because the legitimate state interest in promoting water safety, in addition to the diminished privacy expectations of a person on a vessel, justify searches without probable cause."

With respect to the quote from Alex above. British Common Law, aka Jurisprudence speaks to this issue at length in Canada as well as in the U. S. The British Common Law system applies to both Canadian and American law and in fact, it is not uncommon for judicial rulings in one country to be cited in the other with respect to arcane legal matters where there is no specific precedent in the jurisdiction where the matter is before the court.

The matter of stopping a boater, or kayaker and asking to see a required license or card is an administrative inspection and does not engage Criminal Law or the protections that require either a search warrant or in U.S. parlance "probable cause", also known as "reasonable grounds" in Canada.

In Canada, there is a section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 8 which states:

8. Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

In the U. S., the 4th amendment reads:

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Note that in both countries the constitutional protection precludes "unreasonable search and seizure". In both countries, the courts have ruled that the warrant and probable cause provisions of these protections always apply to searches for evidence pertinent to a Criminal offence. Thus any search for evidence of a crime requires a warrant in almost all cases in order to be reasonable.

There is in both countries however the concept of "reasonable expectation of privacy" that is a test used by the courts to determine if a search or seizure without warrant is unreasonable. Thus most inspections, or searches for a regulatory purpose are deemed reasonable in both countries. The reasons for this include: inspections are the principle method of ensuring compliance with administrative laws that govern regulated activities, including licensing, health and safety, trade, etc. A person may choose to participate in a regulated activity or not. If you choose to participate in the regulated activity, you are doing so with the understanding that there are regulatory requirements and that you are subject to inspection by designated officials as a result. You have a much lower reasonable expectation of privacy when engaged in regulated activities that you choose to participate in.

Therefore, in Washington State, a boater education card will be a regulatory requirement for any resident who wishes to paddle a canoe or kayak. On passage of the legislation, paddling will be a regulated activity and therefore paddlers will be subject to inspection as provided in the relevant statute. The statute will also set out which officials are empowered to conduct the inspections and enforce the regulation. In Canada, anyone who was empowered to enforce such a regulation would be "designated" to do so. Not certain how that works in the State of Washington.

There is however still a reasonableness requirement under the law, in that you would have to be paddling or at least loading or unloading a kayak at the shore for the inspector to have reasonable grounds to believe that you were engaged in the regulated activity, paddling a kayak. An official would not be allowed to walk into your yard because he saw a kayak and ask to see your boater education card because owning or storing a kayak in not the regulated activity.

As one further note, a federal Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) is required to operate any recreational power boat in Canada. Thus far at least it is not required for a human-powered watercraft. By the way it costs $45.00 to get a PCOC in Canada.

Cheers, Rick
 
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Reed

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Nov 30, 2013
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Location
Burnaby, BC
I have two problems with the concept put forward here: policing and where to stop.

Washington may not have as much shoreline as BC, but there is still a great deal of territory to cover. Who is going to run around and check all the kayaks? How much is that going to cost?

Having a bunch of uniforms enforcing regulations might result in fewer deaths, but it could also have an impact on our enjoyment of the outdoors.

What will likely happen is that the program will start off with energy, pulling people over to check their papers. With time policing will be cut back and the whole thing will just fizzle. Except for the license fee. That will continue to be collected.

Of course, if you are concerned about people getting into trouble, why stop at just kayakers? How about back country skiers and snowboarders. Looking at the avalanche report for southern BC, we have had four avalanche incidents in the last 2 1/2 weeks, resulting in two deaths. There's lots more if you look at the whole winter season.

A month ago, I was watching an interesting TV series on our local Knowledge Network, covering the work the North Shore Search And Rescue does in the mountains north of Vancouver. It was shocking to see how much time the SARs people put into their volunteer efforts. It was also shocking to see some of the rescue scenarios. Let's just say there were some people that should never have left pavement!

So, if we are going to license kayakers, do we also license skiers, snowboarders, hikers, mountain climbers and a whole bunch of other people who regularly get in trouble?

The fact is you can't control everyone and every situation. It's impossible. Some people will hurt themselves along the way. You just have to accept that society is going to have to help them; rescuers, helicopters, ambulances, doctors, nurses the whole enchilada.

If politicians are concerned about an increase in the number of people getting into trouble in the outdoors, they should be putting more money into educational programs. Step up the outdoors programs in our high schools. Start as young as possible!
 

cougarmeat

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Sep 17, 2012
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Bend OR USA
The biggest problem I have with the “evolution” I see is the (Forest) services say they have a problem with bad behavior (“trash” of various types) on the trail or unsafe paddlers. And their solution is not education or enforcement, it’s to charge a fee. An unthoughtful person with money to pay a fee is still and unthoughtful person. Meanwhile, those of us on fixed income who have embraced the less expensive activities of walking in the woods, paddling on the water (all of which used to be adequately funded years ago) are now finding a new fee every time we turn around.
 
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alexsidles

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Jan 10, 2009
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404
Location
Seattle WA
On Saturday, the Coast Guard stopped me in my kayak on Puget Sound. They conducted a no-warrant, no-suspicion "safety check" to see whether I was wearing a lifejacket, which I was.

I was not happy to be detained on the water, not even briefly, and not even for my own safety. I'm afraid I got a little sarcastic with the crew who stopped me. (Coast Guard: "Hi, how's it going?" Me: "Fine, are you guys OK?")

The Coast Guard is not generally empowered to enforce Washington State law. See RCW 10.93.100. So, even if the kayaker safety card bill were adopted as state law, the Coast Guard could not have fined me or directed me ashore for failure to carry the card. However, a Washington State Patrol boat would have the power to fine me or direct me ashore if the kayaker safety card bill were to be adopted. The State Patrol has the same power as the Coast Guard to conduct no-warrant, no-suspicion boater safety checks, so the experience of being detained by the State Patrol would be much the same as my encounter with the Coast Guard. You do not have to be misbehaving for these agencies to stop you.

I was annoyed not only at the stop itself but also at the pretext for the stop: to check my lifejacket. My lifejacket was clearly visible without having to stop me. A pass-by and a friendly wave would have sufficed for this "safety check" in lieu of a stop.

Now, properly speaking, under 33 CFR § 175.21, the Coast Guard is allowed to check not only the existence of a lifejacket but also the lifejacket's condition, fit, and marking. To inspect all that, the Coast Guard could have not only stopped me but actually pulled me out of the boat if necessary. Even worse, they could have checked me for required sound signals (33 CFR § 83.33(b)) and visual distress signals (33 CFR § 175.110), none of which I was carrying. So, in that sense, I got off lightly. However, it is scant comfort to say that an unpleasant encounter could have been more unpleasant.

All of this intrusion onto my kayaking is constitutional because the courts have repeatedly ruled there is a diminished expectation of privacy aboard a boat as compared to a car or an office or a house. Well, I can tell none of the judges who wrote those opinions were kayakers, because I actually do expect to be left alone when I am out on the water. If I wanted the government's opinion of my kayaking, I would have signed up for one of their endless safety courses.

Alex
 

cougarmeat

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Sep 17, 2012
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Bend OR USA
Alex, T’wer it me, if I had to take my life jacket off end hand it to them for inspection, you just know that somehow I might tip over - and now I’m not wearing my life jacket and someone may have to jump in to help me. Sorry Officer - just not used to taking my life jacket off WHILE I’M ON THE WATER.

I’m all for safety. I’m a belt and suspenders guy. But I’m sensitive to “theater” rather than effective action. For example, 3 oz liquid airline limit but nothing to stop two or more people from combining their 3 oz. after boarding the plane; not allowing a nail file past TSA but selling them in the gift shop on the other side, etc..

One thing I never see in the press - is when someone goes off the rails - how whatever bill has or will be passed would have prevented their misbehavior. It’s not that we should stop looking for solutions, it’s that we shouldn’t spend time and money on things that aren’t effective - taking those resources away and fostering a sense of complacency.
 
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