CLEVELAND – With recreational boaters preparing their boats to take to the waters of the Great Lakes, the Ninth Coast Guard District reminds Great Lakes boaters and paddlesport enthusiasts to take the proper precautions.
Recently, Coast Guard units responded to incidents that showcase the importance of taking the proper safety precautions before heading out onto the water.
Tuesday, Coast Guardsmen from Station St. Joseph, Mich., assisted three boaters in the 59-degree waters of Lake Michigan near Stevensville, Mich., after their vessel capsized.
The men were fishing when they reportedly took a wave over the side of their 18-foot boat, causing it to capsize. Only one of the three men was wearing a life jacket.
The Coast Guard recommends that boaters wear a life jacket at all times while underway. The law states that you must have a life jacket for every person onboard, but it is much more difficult to locate, access, or don a life jacket at the moment an accident occurs.
On Saturday, a Coast Guard ice rescue team assisted two canoeists near Buffalo, N.Y., when they were unable to get back to shore because their canoe was beset by ice. A Coast Guard civilian employee on his way to work saw the two men struggling and notified Coast Guard Sector Buffalo. Neither man was wearing a life jacket nor did they have any communications equipment on board.
A marine band radio is the best way to contact the Coast Guard or marine response agencies if you are in distress on the water. When a Mayday is sent out via VHF-FM radio, it is a broadcast, not just a one-to-one party distress call; any nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance. Channel 16 is the international hailing and distress channel and should only be used for emergencies and hailing other mariners.
The Coast Guard also advises mariners to know the weather conditions and dress for the water temperature rather than air temperature. While air temperatures may be rising as the seasons change, the water temperature throughout the Great Lakes takes a considerably longer amount of time to reach similar temperatures.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron conduct free vessel safety examinations that verify the presence and condition of the safety equipment that is required by state and federal regulations. These courtesy examinations are conducted by trained specialists who give recommendations and provide copies of their evaluations. Upon completion of a successful examination, boaters also receive decals for their vessels that show that they have undergone a vessel safety check.
To find the closest vessel examiner, visit www.safetyseal.net, and click on “I Want a VSC.”
For more boating safety information, visit www.uscgboating.org.