Coast Guard urges safety in light of upcoming severe weather

SEATTLE – With more heavy weather in store for the Pacific Northwest, the Coast Guard is urging boaters and beachgoers to take extreme caution when on or near the water.

Wind and rain were largely responsible for dozens of incidents Saturday and Sunday prompting the Coast Guard and other local agencies to respond. From kayakers and sailing vessels tipping over to boogieboarders and beachgoers being swept out to sea by heavy surf, the Coast Guard was kept very busy over the weekend.

Here are some tips for those who choose to go out on the water during the upcoming heavy weather:

* – Leave a float plan with a responsible individual who knows your intentions, location and who they should call if you do not return as scheduled.

* – Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket and set the example for your passengers or paddling partners.

* – Carry a marine VHF radio and other reliable means of communication.

* – Be prepared for the shock of sudden immersion and the disabling effects of cold water. Plan for the worst: dress as though you are going to get wet and be cold.

* – Maintain situational awareness on the water – be aware of activity around your vessel including changing weather, and always know your location.

* – Be responsible – Know that alcohol and drugs cause accidents and sometimes death.

* – Don’t boat alone – Boating alone is not recommended. Recreational canoeists and kayakers often travel with a single canoe and one partner, or even solo, but it is recommended you canoe, kayak or boat with at least three people or two craft.

* – Know your limitations – Be honest with yourself and your companions. Your life and the lives of those in your party may depend on how everyone understands each other’s capabilities.

Specifically for kayakers:

* – Use a spray skirt – Add to your comfort and warmth while kayaking by keeping as much water out of the cockpit as possible. A passing boat might toss a wake, or just a change in weather can cause splashing into your quarters. Know how to attach it properly and how to remove it quickly in an emergency.

It is also very important for boaters to remember to properly secure their vessels when they are not in use. Drifting vessels can become a hazard to navigation, endanger people, structures and other boats and cause environmental damage when they eventually make their way back to shore.

Jetties and other dangerous areas close to rough seas should be avoided by those on shore. Strong, breaking waves can crash up onto shore sweeping people into the ocean. It is recommended a person who is swept out to sea try to remain afloat while allowing the current to carry them back to shore rather than attempting to swim. If the person feels they are in immediate danger, they should swim only in a diagonal direction to the shore.

“The safest course of action in bad weather is to not go out on the water at all,” said Lt. Ron Owens, Response Division Officer at Coast Guard Sector Seattle. “When it comes to boating and weather conditions; if you don’t know, don’t go.”

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