At 6:53 PM this evening, Oak Island Water Rescue and Oak Island Fire Department were dispatched to the beach on the east end near McGlamery Street for a report of 2 boys on kayaks out too far, not wearing life jackets, and possibly struggling to return to shore. We responded with one of our 4×4 trucks towing the surf-launch boat, followed by our new truck and drone.
We quickly determined the boys were not in immediate danger, nor struggling to paddle or maintain control of their kayaks. Thanks to the help of some locals with a very nice camera with an incredible zoom lens, we were also able to tell they in fact did not have life jackets and appeared to have only a single light between the two of them. Since they were not struggling, we made the decision to not launch our boat, but did choose to remain on scene until the boys made it back to shore. With night approaching, and a fairly strong wind out of the East Northeast, which could seriously impact a kayaker returning to shore, we decided to launch our drone.
Within about a minute, the drone was hovering near the boys. Using the 100-decibel loudspeaker, we instructed the boys to return to shore immediately, which they did. Once safely back on the beach, we had a friendly discussion with them about the dangerous choices they made this evening. Hopefully they will learn from this experience.
Kayaking on the ocean can be a safe and fun activity. Whether fishing or just floating around having fun, being on the ocean in a kayak is definitely a wonderful experience. But a healthy respect for the ocean is in order. Anyone taking a kayak out on the water needs to evaluate their own skills, experience, and knowledge if they are to have a safe and fun time. Kayaks have different capabilities and there exists a wide range to choose from. The inexpensive ones from big-box retailers are not usually well suited for ocean kayaking. When you are kayaking, or boating in general, you must prepare for problems. This includes bringing water and food with you, as well as lights, a cell phone, and other methods of communications. Having a locator beacon is also a very wise investment, and of course, you should ALWAYS wear a life preserver (PFD) when kayaking. If your activity causes area boaters to stop and ask if you are okay or need help, you are probably doing something wrong and should heed their warnings or advice.
Fortunately, this incident did not result in injury to anyone. We have responded to several kayak related calls this year where the person was not exercising good judgement with regards to their equipment, skill, or knowledge of the area they were boating. We want everyone to have a fun and pleasurable experience kayaking, boating, and in many other ways enjoying Oak Island. The only way to accomplish this is to do it safely.
The first image below will launch a video taken from our drone on this call. It shows some of many capabilities of our DJI Mavic Enterprise drone, including 4k and Infrared (FLiR) video.