Safety: Common Sense Beyond Leashes and PFDs

Editor’s Note: We ran across this cautionary tale and sober reminder that being safe on the water means more than just wearing a PFD and leash and knowing your limits.  Angie Federici shared this experience on her Facebook page last week after a near miss involving her husband Otto, who was out in his outrigger canoe.  She has graciously agreed to let us re-post it here, in hopes that folks will take heed, no matter what craft is paddled. This Thanksgiving day we are grateful for their willingness to share and that Otto is no doubt spending the holiday with his ohana, safe and sound!

So this happened on Wednesday. I couldn’t reach Otto for a few hours. I knew he was paddling and figured he probably got his phone wet. Again. Or lost it. Again. I had no idea my husband almost disappeared into the ocean, never to be seen again.

Life can drastically change, or end, in an instant. He hulied (capsized.) Everyone who has ever paddled hulis. That’s why paddlers rely on leashes. His came off (it didn’t technically break, the velcro opened, and wasn’t from Tri Paddle, LOL). In the split second he reached for his glasses (which he lost anyway), his boat was gone. The wind blew the boat one way. The current dragged Otto the other way. And just like that, it could’ve all been over.


Darryl didn’t see Otto’s dark blue shirt. It took a while for him to hear Otto calling out over the noise of the wind and waves. Darryl finally noticed him waving his paddle. Thank God he didn’t loose his paddle. Thank God for Darryl Slate.

If only there were a way to be seen out there. If only there were a way to be heard. Fortunately, there are. Whistles and a neon shirt. Those two simple things would’ve helped immensely. Otto has a drawer full of neon shirts and a whistle in the truck. They don’t do anyone any good there. We all get complacent. We know seatbelts save lives but we still need the PSA’S reminding us to wear them.

Please folks, share this with a paddler. Spread the word. Kai Bartlett can make Otto another boat. But he can’t make another Otto. There’s only one #OttoMatic #safetyfirst #neonandawhistle #buddysystem #irreplacable


Wendell at Tri Paddle also asked me to add that Otto stayed calm and did not panic. That’s another key aspects of survival. He thought about which way to swim (not fighting the current, he’d get too tired) and he calmly prayed and talked to God. No panicking. Breathe deeply. Hopefully none of you will have this happen but the chances are, at least one of you will have a leash come off or some other issue. We hope these tips help you remain calm, easy to see, and easy to rescue. Be safe out there friends. Much aloha!! Otto & Angie