Coast Guard reminds boaters to boat safe in the last days of summer

BALTIMORE- Labor Day marks the unofficial end to the boating season, but the Coast Guard reminds boaters to boat smart and boat safe in the last days of summer.

“If we could communicate two messages,” said Capt. Mark O’Malley, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, “It would be to wear your lifejacket and to maintain situational awareness at all times. It’s absolutely crucial, that while on the water, you be a prudent mariner.”

Since April, the Coast Guard along with other federal, state and local agencies responded to 257 cases in the upper Chesapeake Bay and national capital region. Some of the search and rescue cases included: 29 disabled boats, 12 medevacs, 11 overdue boaters, 38 boats taking on water or capsized and numerous other cases involving reports of people in the water, flare sightings, vessels aground and uncorrelated maydays. Because of these efforts, the Coast Guard and other assisting and cooperating agencies were able to save more than 170 lives.

The Coast Guard asks boat operators to take preventative measures to ensure their own safety, safety of passengers as well as other boaters.

“Even though we share an outstanding partnership with federal, state and local agencies, and that partnership has saved many lives, ultimately the boater is responsible for their own safety and should take every step possible to ensure they boat smart and boat safe,” said O’Malley.

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, 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.
  • Emergency position indicating radio beacons EPIRBs provide boaters an excellent enhancement with regard to safety during an offshore voyage. In the event a voyage is interrupted by unforeseen events, the beacon will transmit the boats position and other identifying information that will expedite rescue.

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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