Coast Guard reminds boaters to “Boat Responsibly” during Labor Day weekend

SEATTLE — The U.S. Coast Guard anticipates an increased number of people will utilize Labor Day weekend to take advantage of the recreational boating opportunities available throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and along the coasts of Oregon and Washington.

To better prepare the boating community, U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and local marine law enforcement boat crews will be on patrol conducting safety checks on the water, and focusing on boaters who are operating their vessel in an unsafe manner or are operating their vessels while intoxicated.

Boaters, personal watercraft operators, paddlers, and surfers need to be aware of their surroundings, and are reminded to monitor the weather forecast continuously. Weather conditions can change instantaneously, especially during the summer months on throughout Puget Sound and the lower Columbia River region where rapidly forming fog, strong currents, wind and tide changes can hinder safe navigation.

Boaters are asked to remember one very important message this Labor Day weekend: “You’re in Command. Boat Responsibly!”

Here are three steps every boater can do to reduce the risk of accidents and/or prevent serious injuries and assure the boating community that “You’re in Command” and you will “Boat Responsibly.”:

Wear a Life jacket

Boaters should always wear a life jacket. Wearing a lifejacket will increase the chances of survivability in a boating accident. The number one cause of boating fatalities is drowning, most often by sudden, unexpected entry into the water. The law states you must have a life jacket, or personal floatation device, for every person on board.  The Coast Guard suggests you go one step further and wear your life jacket at all times.  It is much more difficult to locate, access and don a life jacket at the moment the accident occurs.

Boat Sober

DO NOT boat under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.  Alcohol and drugs affect judgment, vision, balance and coordination.  Factor in boat motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray and an operator’s impairment is accelerated. Intoxicated boaters can face both federal and state charges with penalties of up to one year in prison and fines up to $100,000. But, don’t be fooled into thinking that lesser amounts of alcohol consumption are OK, or that passengers aren’t at risk if they drink. The latest study on boating and alcohol indicates that the risk of a fatality rises significantly at amounts as low as .02 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). (Legal definition of intoxication in Oregon and Washington is .08 BAC.)

Dress for the water, not the weather:

Water temperatures throughout the Pacific Northwest remain in the 50s during this time of year. Susceptibility to hypothermia is increased due to these lower water temperatures and survivability time in the water is decreased as a result. Wet suits and other personal protective equipment assist the body as an insulator, limiting exposure to dangerous water temperatures.

Additional steps all boater can take is:

  • File a float plan and leave it with someone who is not recreating on the water.  A float plan is a lifesaving device on paper and can assist emergency responders with locating a distressed mariner.  CLICK HERE for more information on float plans.
  • Have a marine band radio and visual distress signals.  All of these devices will greatly assist you if you are in distress.  CLICK HERE for more information on visual distress signals.
  • Have a registered 406MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.  CLICK HERE to learn more about registering your EPIRB

The Coast Guard and local marine agencies ask boaters to help be their eyes and ears on the water. Boaters who see suspicious activity should immediately call 911, Coast Guard District 13 Command Center at (206) 217-7001, Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound at (206) 217-6001, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River (503) 861-6211 or the Coast Guard’s National Response Center at 1-877-24WATCH (1-877-249-2824).

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