Coast Guard reminds mariners of safety after a busy weekend

Southeastern Coast Guard News
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Coast Guard wants to remind mariners of safety tips while on the water after a busy weekend.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received approximately 60 distress calls within a 15-hour period Sunday. The majority of the calls were of mariners beset by weather, overdue because of weather, and not having the proper safety equipment aboard their vessel to assist them in a storm.

“It is imperative people do not leave the dock without checking the weather or having proper safety equipment aboard their vessel including a VHF-FM radio to listen to information broadcasts,” said Richard Hutchinson, a search and rescue coordinator at the sector.

Hutchinson and his team began issuing a weather broadcast over VHF-FM channel 16 radio at 1 p.m., Sunday warning mariners of the storm coming through the area at approximately 4 p.m.

Due to the storm, crews at Coast Guard Station Sand Key, Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater and Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg rescued a total of six people during three different cases during the storm.

The Coast Guard would like to ask any mariners who abandoned their vessel and came ashore by other means during the storm to contact Sector St. Petersburg at 727-824-7506, so search and rescue crews are not launched on non-distress cases of adrift vessels and salvage arrangements can be made.

“One of our problems yesterday was the majority of the calls came in through cell phones,” said Hutchinson. “After receiving the initial call, the calls were dropped either due to coverage or dead batteries. Having a VHF-FM radio is the best means of communication, as well as emergency position indicating radio beacons and of course a life jackets. We want boater to be safe.”

Below are safety tips mariners should review before heading out on the water.

  • 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. It also gives a vessel description, details your destination and what time you expect to arrive there. If you are delayed for some reason, make sure you let someone know.
  • Have working communication equipment aboard your vessel. A VHF-FM radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and the inevitable dead battery.
  • Make certain to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change rapidly, so mariners planning on making way should keep a watchful eye on the forecast conditions.
  • Wear your life jacket! More than 80 percent of boaters who drown were not wearing their life jackets. In an emergency there might not be enough time to put one on, so wearing one at all times may save your life.
  • Inspect your boat to avoid breakdowns that often lead to tragedy in the water. Obtain a free, no-fault vessel safety check, which can be conducted by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, before heading out on the water. The safety checks are courtesy examinations of your vessel, verifying the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations.

Below are approximate prices for boating safety equipment.

VHF-FM radio $120
personnel locator beacon $250
flare kit $100
lifejacket $40
survival mirror $10

“You can never put a price on a life and when an emergency happens,” said Hutchinson. “Having emergency equipment aboard your vessel and not needing it, is much better than needing it and not having it.”

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