PORTLAND – PeaksFest is about having fun on the island in Casco Bay, but part of it focuses on enjoyment and safety off the island.

The festival began Friday night and runs today and Sunday on Peaks Island. It features events ranging from pancake breakfasts and bake sales to schooner cruises, scavenger hunts, concerts, dog shows and even a tour of the island’s wastewater treatment plant.

A couple of events are keyed toward “paddle safety” — making sure that people who venture out in canoes and kayaks take proper precautions.

It’s an issue that hits home for many on Peaks Island because of the deaths in May of two young women whose bodies were pulled from Casco Bay after their kayaks apparently tipped over and they fell into frigid ocean water.

Both women were wearing shorts and T-shirts, while the ocean conditions that day called for wet suits.

One of the women, Irina McEntee, 18, was a summer resident of Peaks Island. The other, Carissa Ireland, 20, was a college friend who was visiting McEntee and her family.

This morning at Government Dock, next to Peaks’ ferry landing, Coast Guard representatives will show off their 47-foot lifeboat and hand out literature on paddle safety. Joining them will be Sharoan DuPont and others from Maine Island Kayak Outfitters Co. of Peaks Island, which offers day trips to introduce people to kayaking.

Maine Island Kayaking will host its own event from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at 153 Island Ave., offering tips on cold water safety, proper outfitting, finding weather information, communications systems, and planning an outing on the water.

DuPont said kayaking is gaining popularity, partly because kayaks are inexpensive compared with other watercraft. But she said it’s important for all kayakers, particularly beginners, to get a solid understanding of some basics to make sure trips are safe.

For instance, she said, beginning kayakers should take guided trips. A typical outing includes a healthy dose of information onshore, including getting good weather forecasts, learning about tides and other water movement, navigating shipping lanes, and what to do if a kayak capsizes.

DuPont said kayaking — with proper safety precautions — is a great way to explore the Maine coast, especially from Peaks Island.

“Kayaking is very accessible,” she said, “after all, we live on the water.”

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]