Busy weekend for rescuers puts focus on boating safety

BALTIMORE – Due to an unusually high number of boaters in distress through the weekend, the Coast Guard reminds boaters to boat smart and boat safe while spending time on the water this summer.

Due to the weather conditions throughout the weekend and other causitive factors, the Coast Guard responded to 12 search and rescue cases. Some of the weekend’s rescue efforts included:

Saturday, July 25, at 7 p.m., the Coast Guard received notification from a Good Samaritan reporting that a 19-foot boat was in distress in the Potomac River. A concerned family member also contacted the Coast Guard reporting a person overdue. Watchstanders matched the description from the Good Samaritan to that of the concerned family member. The Coast Guard was able to narrow a search area based on cell towers the man’s phone had used during its most recent activity. The man in distress was rescued from the water by a Good Samaritan.

Saturday, July 25, at 8 p.m., the Coast Guard received a distress call from a 30-foot boat that had reportedly ran aground near Turkey Point and was taking on water. The Coast Guard and Anne Arundel County Fire Department dispatched rescue crews. The Coast Guard located the people safely onshore near the grounded vessel.

Saturday, July 25, at 11 p.m., the Coast Guard received a report from Anne Arundel County dispatch of four people in the water in the Magothy River. During the storm, their vessel reportedly became disabled and the passengers abandoned the boat. A Good Samaritan took the disabled boat in tow and removed one person from the water. The remaining three people were located safely onshore.

According to Maryland Natural Resources Police statistics, nine boaters died in Maryland last year. Two-thirds of these deaths can be attributed to boating under the influence, drowning and weather conditions. The Coast Guard asks boat operators to take preventative measures to ensure their own safety, safety of passengers as well as other boaters.

Being educated about safe boating could save a life. Most boating fatalities occur on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety education course. Courses given by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons cover many aspects of boating safety, from boat handling to reading the weather.

According to Coast Guard statistics in 2002, 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing their life jackets. In an emergency, there is no time to put on a life jacket, so wearing one at all times is very important. Forget the image of life jackets being orange, bulky and uncomfortable, today’s technologically advanced life jackets are inconspicuous; some even double as fishing vests or jackets.

Another aspect of boating safety is not operating a boat under the influence. Just as deadly as drinking and driving, it is also illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. There are stringent penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws, which can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail terms.

In an effort to reduce the number of incidents on the water and to increase the safety of people on the water, the Coast Guard recommends the following:

  • Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan states where you are going and how many people are aboard your vessel, gives a complete vessel description, and details your destination and when you plan to return. Float plans aid rescuers in identifying a search area in the event of an emergency while on the water.
  • Be sure to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change very rapidly and boaters should keep a watchful eye on the forecasted conditions.
  • The Coast Guard urges mariners to outfit their boat with a functioning marine-band radio as cell phones are typically an unreliable source of communication due to gaps in coverage and limited battery life. Using channel 16 on a marine-band radio is the most reliable way to communicate a distress to search and rescue personnel in the event of an emergency while on the water.

For further boating safety information, check online at one of the following:

  • U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary www.cgaux.org
  • Vessel Safety Checks www.vesselsafetycheck.org
  • Coast Guard Boating Safety page at http://www.uscgboating.org
  • National Safe Boating Council www.safeboatingcouncil.org
  • U.S. Power Squadrons www.usps.org

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