Crowded waterways put kayakers at risk

Buffalo River

BUFFALO, N.Y.(WIVB)- Rentals at Canalside are booming. Staff said on any given day, they have hour-long waits for kayaks, paddle boards, or water bikes.

But their customers aren’t alone on the Buffalo River.

“We had to be careful that a boat wasn’t going to hit us or that we weren’t going to run into any other boats. So it was something that we had to be aware of,” said Sara Sulzbach, who paddle boarded Thursday afternoon.

With so many small water crafts, plus dozens of boats, there’s been a traffic back-up at Canalside.

“For kayakers, they really need to be aware of how small they are in compared to the other boats. Their visibility is much less,” said Petty Officer Josh Fennell of the U.S. Coast Guard.

There’s no set right-of-way rule. Petty Office Fennell told News 4 everyone should pay attention, but smaller crafts need to be on the defense while out on the water,

Especially on narrow waterways, Fennell said it’s important for kayakers to stay along the edge of the water, as opposed to cutting across the center.

But he said boats have a responsibility too.

“They really need to be aware of their wake as well too. Even some of the larger boats at five or ten knots can throw a pretty large wake and can interrupt other traffic,” Fennel said.

The wake speed limit on the Buffalo River is 5 miles per hour. It’s 10 miles per hour at the Outer Harbor.

“Some of the boats coming up from behind the kayakers, I was kind of worried for the little kids that were close than we were,” said Corey Ann Sulzbach

“You would just be out there and all of a sudden a boat comes right out behind you and you might not even notice it and then you have to hurry up and get out of the way,” said Sara Sulzbach.

If boats exceed the wake speed, they can get a ticket.

For safety, Fennell said all small craft operators should have a life jacket, and a whistle, in case boats do get too close.

He also stressed the importance of staying out of the water in rough conditions.

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