Coast Guard reminds hunters to boat responsibly

Coast Guard District 1 NewsNEW HAVEN, Conn. — The U.S. Coast Guard reminds waterfowl hunters the importance of recreational boating and paddling safety during the hunting season in and around Long Island Sound.

The waterfowl hunting season, which starts in October and ends in February, brings inherent dangers associated with boating that may be reduced with proper education, equipment and preparedness. The risks of a boat capsizing or someone falling overboard into cold water are major hazards for Long Island Sound hunters, as water temperatures drop significantly during the hunting season, posing a hypothermia threat.

Hunters should remain aware of the dangers and follow these simple safety rules:

  • Always wear a Coast Guard-approved and properly-fitted life jacket.
  • Carry a throw-able flotation device in case someone falls overboard.
  • Never boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • File a float plan to let others know where you are going.  An example of a float plan can be found at http://www.floatplancentral.org/.
  • Know the weather forecast for the area. High winds can be dangerous. Cancel the trip if water conditions are not safe.
  • Have a VHF radio, since cell phone services are unreliable offshore.
  •  Equip your vessel with visual distress signals such as flares, pyrotechnic signals, orange distress flag and electric distress light.
  • Always stay seated when shooting from an open boat.
  • Transport firearms to the boat unloaded, cased, muzzle first and with the action open.
  • Never overload your boat. Load gear low in the boat and distribute the weight evenly.

To help prevent hypothermia if you fall overboard:

  • For the greatest protection against hypothermia, insulate the critical regions of your body by wearing an insulated life jacket.
  • Do not remove extra clothing. It can help prevent hypothermia. No cotton, when wet it is worthless as an insulator and heavy.
  • Adopt a survival position such as the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (H.E.L.P.), which can only be used if you are wearing a personal flotation device. Hold your arms tightly against your sides and across your chest, pull your legs together and up toward your chest.
  • Get as much of your body out of the water as possible.
  • The more energy you use in cold water, the more your body cools off. Remain still and in place unless a floating object, another person or the shore is nearby.
  • Keeping a positive mental outlook and a will to survive really does matter.

“Waters will be cold and weather and sea states can be unpredictable this hunting season in the Long Island Sound,” said Capt. Joseph Vojvodich, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound.  “Have a nice time out there and make safety a priority – it could save your life.”

Boating safety courses are offered either through their respective state, with the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the U.S. Power Squadrons.  Additional course information is available through the BOAT/U.S. Foundation at 1-800-336-BOAT.

For additional boating safety tips, and the recently released Recreational Boating Statistics 2010, boaters can access the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Web site at www.uscgboating.org.

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