Adrift kayaks trigger Coast Guard search

Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo/U.S. Coast GuardWhen a local lobsterman located the kayaks, he notified the authorities.

SALEM — Two unexplained, adrift kayaks triggered an exhaustive U.S. Coast Guard search over the holiday weekend, turning up nothing more than a hard-hitting bill to be absorbed by taxpayers, a chief petty officer with the U.S. Coast Guard said.

A local lobsterman in Salem Harbor found and reported “two unmanned and unmarked kayaks adrift” by Misery Island about 6:45 p.m. Sunday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

As per U.S. Coast Guard protocol, with no determination if people were in distress or if the kayaks simply drifted out to open water,  a search spanning from Manchester Bay to the Salem Harbor entrance was launched.

The search was suspended without anything being found, according to U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo.

By early Monday evening, the U.S. Coast Guard believed it had pinpointed the kayaks’ point of origin, but personnel were still working up a couple leads, according to Pinneo.

During the search, a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat crew from Station Gloucester and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew from Air Station Cape Cod were blanketing the area. The boat costs $3,000 per hour to operate, and the Jayhawk burns up $11,000 every hour its in the air, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Because of that, Pinneo advised all kayak owners to label their vessels.

“Even something as simple as a Sharpie, or permanent marker with a name and number would go a long way to save the taxpayers money from not launching assets unnecessarily,” Pinneo said. “By most indicators, (the two unlabeled kayaks) amounted to a pretty high cost — to the taxpayer — for a false alarm.”

Dustin Luca may be contacted at