Six Tips For Staying Safe on the Water

SEATTLE – A rash of on-the-water emergencies in recent days has the Coast Guard concerned for the safety of boaters.

The Coast Guard’s Thirteenth District has responded to cases ranging from boat fires to kayakers and boaters falling into the water over the past few days. While the number of calls coming in is typical for July and the use of life jackets has been noted in most cases, the Coast Guard is still asking boaters to take special care when getting out onto the water.

The following are some tips for staying safe on the water:

1.  Life Jackets: Life jackets save lives! Statistics show that a person’s chance of survival greatly improves when wearing a life jacket. All children under the age of 12 and who weigh less than 90 pounds are required to wear a life jacket at all times while boating. Before boating, be sure that all life jackets are in good shape, fit properly, and are stowed in an easily accessible location.

2.   Cold Water Awareness: With the rising temperatures and the melting snow-pack the average water temperature in the rivers is hovering around 45 degrees. This water may feel refreshing on a hot day, but can be very dangerous when exposed to for long periods of time.

3.   River Currents: Due to higher than normal temperatures, the melting snow-pack creates currents in many rivers which are moving swifter than normal. Since the elevation of the melting snow-pack is so high, debris such as large logs can be swept into the river system. These logs can be rather heavy and float just below the surface of the water. They can cause severe damage to small to medium size vessels and boaters should keep a keen lookout for this type of hazard.

4.   STAY SOBER! : Operating a boat under the influence of intoxicants is illegal and dangerous. Operating a vessel under the influence does not only put the passengers on the vessel at risk, it puts everyone else on the river at risk also. Check with state boating regulations for specific guidelines.

5.  Have a Marine Radio: Investing in a good marine radio is a very smart purchase. Cell phones should never be used as the primary form of communication on a vessel. The reception in some areas of the river may be poor or non-existent and precious time could be lost if an emergency does arise. A marine radio has many advantages such as a strong signal and channels reserved for distress calls. Distress calls are received by everyone monitoring a VHF radio in range, allowing for a quick response in cases of emergency.

6.  Situational Awareness: The Coast Guard is reminding all boaters and waterway users to be aware of your surroundings at all times. It is important to know the limitations of your vessel. Most recreational vessels are not equipped to handle a strong current and can be overcome fairly easily. Parents should always keep a watchful eye on their children at all times. Many vessels are expected to be on the water during the coming days and weeks, being aware of all things around you is important for your safety.

The Coast Guard is encouraging all boaters to use a common sense approach and a know-before-you-go attitude before and during recreational boating. Life jackets, radios, navigation equipment and weather forecasts are necessary preparations whenever you venture in the rivers. Have your vessel inspected by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, file a float plan, and ensure you and your passengers are familiar with all safety equipment. And most importantly wear your life jacket.

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