Coast Guard, Auxiliary to begin safe boating campaign in Cape May, N.J.

CAPE MAY, N.J. – Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay and the Coast Guard Auxiliary is scheduled to begin National Safe Boating week May 22-May 31 by visiting multiple marinas in the Cape May area.

Memorial Day weekend marks the informal beginning of summer and is expected to be a busy one on the water. This year the holiday weekend comes on the heels of National Safe Boating Week and Coast Guard Station’s crews throughout the Delaware Bay area will be on patrol. Boaters can expect an increased presence from the Coast Guard who will be paying particular attention to recreational boating safety over the holiday weekend.

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 cover many aspects of boating safety, from boat handling to reading the weather.

The Coast Guard urges boaters to obtain a free vessel safety check, which can be conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, before heading out on the water. Vessel safety checks, are courtesy examinations of your vessel, verifying the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations.

This year during National Safe Boating Week, and throughout the boating season, remember to practice safe and responsible boating. Always wear a life jacket and be alert and aware while on the water. Safe boating saves lives, so remember to “WEAR IT Always wear your life jacket!”

Boating under the influence, or boating while intoxicated, is just as deadly as drinking and driving. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail terms.

Nationwide, more than 700 people die every year in boating and paddling accidents. Approximately two-thirds drown, and, more than 90 percent of these were not wearing a life jacket. The most recent data for the Delaware Bay area shows 29 people died in boating and paddling accidents in 2009. Alcohol use is the lead contributing factor in fatal boating accidents accounting for nearly 20 percent of all reported fatalities nationally.

Here are some other tips to help boaters have a safe and pleasant summer on the water:

  • Wear your life jacket! Almost three-quarters of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, nearly 90 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can happen very quickly, sometimes leaving no time to don a life jacket. More than 90 percent of boaters who drown were not wearing their life jackets. In an emergency there might not be enough time to put one on, so wearing one at all times may save your life.
  • 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. It also gives a vessel description, details your destination and what time you expect to arrive there. If you are delayed for some reason, make sure you let someone know.
  • Make certain to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change very rapidly and you should keep a watchful eye on the forecasted conditions.
  • Know how to operate your equipment. Have up-to-date nautical charts of the area you are boating in, a global positioning device and a reliable means of communication aboard your vessel. VHF-radio is the best method of communication while on the water. The Coast Guard monitors VHF channel 16. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and the inevitable dead battery.
  • Don’t drink and boat: A day out on the water in the sun will increase alcohol’s effects on the body, so it’s best to wait until you’re safely back at the dock or home before drinking alcoholic beverages. Also bring lots of water, a VHF marine band radio, and check marine radio weather reports often to stay abreast of small craft advisories and current weather forecasts to avoid quick moving storm fronts that can cause serious problems for boaters.
  • Take extra care navigating at night and in unfamiliar waters: The most frequently reported boating accidents are collisions with other vessels, so it’s important to maintain a safe speed, post a lookout and ensure all navigation lights work. Spotlights can be very helpful, and ensure all safety gear is readily available and life jackets are worn. Be extra careful not to run over anchor lines in crowded areas, and don’t take shortcuts during periods of darkness.
  • Don’t overload your boat: Resist the urge to invite more friends or family aboard than what your boat was designed to carry. Heavily loaded small boats, and those with little free-board such as bass boats, are more susceptible to swamping from weather or wake action associated with heavy boating traffic.

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

Safe Boating: http://www.safeboatingcampaign.com/

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary: http://www.cgaux.org/

Vessel Safety Checks: http://www.vesselsafetycheck.org/

Coast Guard Boating Safety page: http://www.uscgboating.org/

National Safe Boating Council: http://www.safeboatingcouncil.org/

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