Coast Guard reminds boaters to operate safely during Seafair on Lake Washington

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SEATTLE – As Seafair’s Fleet Week continues and the festivities transition to Lake Washington, the Coast Guard reminds boaters to prepare for their time on the water and operate their vessels safely.

Wearing your life jacket, being aware of the traffic around you and boating sober can prevent tragedy. Making good choices ensures everyone enjoys their time on the water and comes home safe.

The Coast Guard anticipates a very high concentration of boaters on Lake Washington this weekend for the annual hydroplane races, the return of the Blue Angels and the addition of this year’s fireworks. The fireworks are expected to keep boaters on the water longer, increasing the chance for overconsumption of alcohol and marine traffic after dark, making for a long and potentially dangerous evening. Coast Guard teams will be conducting random vessel and personnel checks to ensure the safest environment possible while mariners enjoy the festivities.

According to national data from 2013, at least three people per day are killed or injured in a boating accident and 84 percent of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket. Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, machinery failure and alcohol use rank as the top six primary contributing factors in recreational boating accidents.

In the past week the Coast Guard, good Samaritans and partner agencies have responded to several cases in the Pacific Northwest ranging from kayakers in trouble to missing swimmers. While most people made it home at least two lives have been lost – one while attempting to save others caught in a rip tide and one due in part to the use of alcohol and the failure to wear a life jacket.

To reduce your risk of death or injury the Coast Guard recommends taking the big three to sea: a marine radio, a signaling device and a life jacket.

  • A marine radio will allow you to alert rescuers of your distress. The Coast Guard should be your first call on VHF channel 16.
  • Beacons, flares, whistles, airhorns, signal mirrors or other distress signals help rescuers find you.
  • A life jacket dramatically increases your chances of survival while rescuers are en route and can prevent drowning if you are incapacitated.

For those mariners paddling, be prepared. Last year, eight of 10 boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length. Prepare to kayak, row, stand-up paddleboard or canoe with the same vigilance you would if you were operating a motorized vessel. Wear your life jacket, take communication devices, take water and don’t drink alcohol and paddle!

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