Coast Guard reminds ‘think safety’ for boating season opener

SEATTLE — As the Pacific Northwest prepares to kick off the 2009 boating season, the Coast Guard would like to remind boaters to THINK SAFETY while boating.

There were 67 recreational boating deaths in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana in 2008. Lifejackets were not worn in 48 of these tragic accidents. This is compared to only 45 fatalities in 2007. This illustrates that more than 72 percent of boating fatalities could have been avoided if only a lifejacket had been worn. In Washington, 23 of the 25 boating fatalities were not wearing a lifejacket.

“We’ve always stressed the importance of having the proper equipment aboard, but the safety of the boat and its passengers is the responsibility of the vessel’s operator.” said Dan Shipman, Coast Guard Boating Safety Specialist. “The vessel’s operator must set the example and make some important choices regarding the safety of passengers, choosing to have everyone wear a life jacket, choosing not to drink and boat, and choosing to make sure their boat is properly equipped and maintained is all a part of being a safe and responsible boater.”

Boaters can get some assistance in ensuring they are properly prepared by taking advantage of some of the services offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadron; volunteer organizations dedicated to promoting safe boating. Both organizations offer a variety of safe boating courses, as well as free vessel safety checks, which can help ensure a boat is properly equipped. To find out more information about what courses are being offered and to get more information, visit www.uscgaux.org or www.usps.org.

All boaters should follow these important safety tips:

  • Wear a life jacket
  • Carry a VHF-FM marine radio
  • Don’t drink and boat
  • Take a boating class, educated boaters are safe boaters
  • Check weather forecasts
  • Make sure the boat is in good repair
  • Check all safety gear and ensure that everybody is trained in its use
  • Make sure the boat drain plug is securely in place
  • Don’t overload your boat
  • Keep a sharp lookout and monitor the weather and sea conditions
  • Keep your distance from military, passenger and commercial shipping
  • In Puget Sound observe the vessel traffic zones and stay clear of large commercial ships, tugs and barges.
  • Don’t drink and drive
  • Follow the rules of the road and be a considerate boater
  • Operate at a safe speed, a safe speed is the distance you can safely stop to avoid a collision in the prevailing visibility and or density of boating traffic

Due to the large number of Navy facilities in the Puget Sound region, the Coast Guard is advising boaters to operate cautiously within the vicinity of naval vessels. Boats must not approach within 100 yards of any U.S. Naval vessel, passenger vessel over 100 feet in length (including ferries), or tank vessels, unless they have received permission to do so from the ships captain, or from any official escort/patrol vessel that may be present. Boaters must also operate their vessels at minimum speed within 500 yards of those vessels. Violators face up to six years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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