Many canoe, kayak owners unaware of regulations

Posted: Friday, June 06, 2003

Most boat owners in Alaska are aware of registration requirements. Professional guides on the Kenai River know they need special guide registrations as well.

But not everyone knows that any boat 10 feet and longer, even if not equipped with a motor, must be registered in the state.

The registration requirement in many states does not apply to paddle craft including canoes and kayaks unless they are motorized, but that's not the case in Alaska.

Owners of canoes and kayaks longer than 10 feet must register their boats with the Department of Motor Vehicles at a cost of $10 for three years.

To register the boat, the owner must complete a boat registration form at the DMV and present a title of ownership, a bill of sale or an affidavit of ownership along with the required fee.

Asked why such registration is required considering the low impact of paddle craft on the state's resources, Alaska State Parks Kenai River district ranger Bill Berkhahn said first it is important to understand why any boat registrations are required.

Revenue generated from boat registration goes to fund boater and water safety education, a tracking system for water craft that helps to recover lost or stolen boats, and facility maintenance for such things as boat launching ramps and enforcement, he said.

"The bulk of the education on the Kenai Peninsula has been in the elementary schools," Berk-hahn said.

"We have six state park rangers conducting classes for kindergarten through sixth grade and we're expanding the program somewhat into high schools," he said.

He also said the Kenai River special district has conducted a one-week outdoor skills class at the middle school level that included training in water safety.

The importance of the training is evidenced by the fact that paddling fatalities account for between 25 and 60 percent of all boating deaths in Alaska each year, according to the Alaska Boater's Handbook, which is also available at the DMV.

Boat registration fees also partially fund the "Kids Don't Float" program that places children's life jackets at boat ramps along the Kenai River. The program also is funded in part by the U.S. Coast Guard.

As with all boats in Alaska, canoes and kayaks are required to have one personal flotation device aboard for every person on the boat and children under the age of 13 must wear the PFD at all times.

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