Coast Guard issues life jacket advisory

BOSTON – Coast Guard personnel always wear life jackets on the water and strongly encourage mariners and those who work on or near the water, to do the same.

Federal law requires children 12 years old and under to wear a life jacket. For adults, with the exception of personal watercraft’s, wearing a life jacket is optional but one should always be readily available.

Once the summer passes, life jacket wear becomes mandatory in some First Coast Guard District areas:

  • Massachusetts requires that canoeists and kayakers must wear a life jacket while on the water from September 15th through May 15th.
  • Connecticut requires that all canoeists, kayakers, rowers and all others in manually powered vessels must wear a life jacket from October 1st through May 31st.
  • New York requires that all boaters and paddlers in all vessels under 21-feet in length wear a life jacket while on the water from November 1st through May 1st.
  • Maine requires anyone canoeing or kayaking on the Saco River between the Hiram Dam and the Atlantic Ocean from January 1st through June 1st must wear a life jacket. Boaters and paddlers are also advised that there are sections of both the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers where life jacket wear is mandatory year-round.

“We strongly recommend wearing a life jacket when you’re on the water,” said Al Johnson, First Coast Guard District recreational boating specialist, “because, simply put, it’s your first line of survival if you capsize or fall overboard.”

“As our waters begin to cool a life jacket doesn’t take the place of a wet or dry suit,” said Johnson, “but it will keep you afloat until help arrives.”

Additionally, Johnson recommends that boaters:

  • be aware of weather and water conditions
  • never boat or paddle alone – file a float plan to let others know where you are going;
  • be cautious – do not exceed your ability to handle your vessel;
  • know that alcohol and drugs contribute to accidents and,
  • be constantly aware of other vessels in the immediate area.

Johnson recommends coastal and off-shore recreational boaters and sea kayakers carry a VHF marine radio, either a fixed system or handheld unit, and be familiar with its operation and radio procedures. “The VHF radio, monitored on channel 16,” Johnson said, “is your gateway to communicating with the Coast Guard or other vessels in your area and can be a life saver in a distress situation.”

For many the boating season is now gearing down, and Johnson recommends that all boaters utilize the off-season lull to take a recreational boating safety course. Courses are offered either through their respective state, with the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the U.S. Power Squadrons, both of which can be accessed through http://uscgaux.org or http://usps.org. Additional course information is available through the BOAT/U.S. Foundation at 1-800-336-BOAT.

For boating safety tips, boaters can access the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Web site at www.uscgboating.org. Also, for those interested, the recently released Recreational Boating Statistics 2008 can be found at http://www.uscgboating.org/statistics/Boating_Statistics_2008.pdf.

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