Coast Guard focuses on safe boating as weather warms

BALTIMORE – In response to multiple distress calls from boaters in trouble Monday, Coast Guard Sector Baltimore is reminding boaters to boat smart and boat safe by properly preparing for the upcoming boating season.

“Proper preparation is key for boaters who may encounter unforeseen circumstances,” said Col. George F. Johnson, IV, superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police. “It could mean the difference between life and death.”

The three cases the Coast Guard responded to Monday were as follows:

Monday, April 5, at 3:30 p.m., the Coast Guard rescued two adults and four children near Annapolis, Md., in the South River. Coast Guard Sector Baltimore watchstanders received a call via cellular phone at 1:53 p.m., reporting that a 18-foot pleasure craft was disabled and disoriented outside the West River. The crew of a 25-foot Response Boat – Small from Coast Guard Station Annapolis launched and arrived on scene at approximately 3:30 p.m. The rescue crew assisted the passengers and towed the disabled boat to the public pier near the Backyard Boats Marina in Shady Side, Md.

Monday, April 5, at 5 p.m., the Coast Guard rescued one adult and two children in the Potomac River near Colonial Beach, Va., after receiving a cellular phone call reporting that a 18-foot pleasure craft was disabled. A 25-foot RB-S from Coast Guard Station St. Inigoes, Md., launched at 3:56 p.m., and arrived on scene at approximately 5:15 p.m. The rescue crew located the passengers approximately 30 feet from a cliff face and towed the disabled boat to a marina in Colonial Beach.

Monday, April 5, at 8 p.m., Coast Guard Sector Baltimore watchstanders received a call from NRP reporting that a 21-foot vessel was possibly taking on water near Maryland’s Bay Bridge. Coast Guard Station Curtis Bay, Md., Station Annapolis, along with NRP and an Anne Arundel County fire rescue boat, launched to assist.

There were no reports of injuries among the three cases.

According to NRP statistics, 16 of the 17 victims involved in boating fatalities last year were not wearing life jackets. Half of these deaths can be attributed to boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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.

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 2008, 90 percent of those involved in fatal boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket. In an emergency, there is no time to put on a life jacket. Therefore, 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.

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, how many people are aboard your vessel, gives a complete vessel description, 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.
  • In the event you contact the Coast Guard to request assistance and circumstances change that no longer requires emergency personnel to respond, the Coast Guard requests that you follow up to indicate the change in your status so as to eliminate a needless search effort.

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