As weather, boat motors begin to warm up, Coast Guard urges boaters to make safety a priority

9th Coast Guard District NewsSAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — As winter is finally loosening its grip on the Northern Great Lakes  the beginning of the 2013 boating season is unofficially beginning, and Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., urges boaters to make the most of the season by keeping it as safe as possible.

The Coast Guard reminds boaters and other water enthusiasts to consider the following while preparing for the boating season.


In 2012, almost 85 percent of 459 drowning death victims were not wearing life jackets.  While there are many factors that can contribute to boating accidents, a properly fitting life jacket can save a life even after an accident has occurred.

Putting a life jacket on is much harder once you’re in the water — especially if you’re injured.  Federal regulations require a life jacket onboard for each person on the boat, but the Coast Guard recommends that you wear your life jacket at all times when boating. There are state and federal regulations, that require children of a certain age to always wear life jackets when on the water.

If you do find yourself in trouble and in the water, stay with your vessel for as long as possible, even if capsized.  Do not try to swim for shore.

Click this link for more information about safe boating:


In 2012, the number one accident factor was operator inattention, which contributed to 47 deaths and 359 injuries.  If you are operating your vessel, please stay focused on that task alone.

  • Avoid ship channels when practical.  When crossing cannot be avoided, proceed directly across and channel quickly
  • Be alert and watch for large commercial traffic
  • Be seen, especially at night.  Ensure that your navigation lights are working properly before beginning your voyage
  • Know whistle signals – 5 or more blasts means danger
  • Listen to VHF-FM radio channels 13 and 16 for security calls from commercial vessels
  • Understand and observe the rules of the road

The Coast Guard encourages all boaters to participate in a boating safety class.  Many boating safety courses are offered throughout the country for all types of recreational boaters of all ages. Qualified volunteer organizations, such as the Coast Guard AuxiliaryU.S. Power Squadrons and state boating agencies sponsor these courses.

Boaters can learn more about boating safety courses in their state by going to

Additionally, you can find more information at the following links:

Transport Canada – Office of Boating Safety

Michigan Department of Natural Resources,4570,7-153-10365_10884—,00.html

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources


In 2012, alcohol was a contributing factor in nearly 17 percent of recreational boating fatalities.  The use of alcohol while boating contributed to 280 accidents, 227 injuries and 109 deaths.  Though the number of accidents in which alcohol was a contributing factor ranked sixth, boat operation under the influence, caused the greatest number of fatalities.

Being under the influence of alcohol can be more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline faster when using alcohol.  Alcohol can also cause an inner ear disturbance that may make it impossible for a person who falls into the water to distinguish up from down.

The Coast Guard and state agencies have stringent penalties for violating BUI laws. Penalties can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms. The Coast Guard and the states cooperate fully in enforcement in order to remove impaired boat operators from the water.


A boater operating his or her boat while intoxicated is a danger to everyone.  The Coast Guard, state and local law enforcement agencies rely on all boaters to help report dangerous conditions on the water.

In addition to helping us remove intoxicated boaters from the water, public reporting of suspicious activity, persons, or packages helps the Coast Guard keep American citizens and critical marine infrastructure safe.


Mariners are encouraged to invest in a VHF-FM radio as their primary means of distress calls on the water.  Communication via VHF-FM radio is significantly more reliable than that of a mobile phone, especially in remote areas where mobile signal is intermittent.

Many new VHF-FM radios are equipped with Digital Selective Calling.  This feature provides the mariner with an emergency function that will send a distress with the vessel’s information and Global Positioning System location at the press of a button. However, the DSC radio must be registered and must be interfaced with the GPS in order to accurately provide your information to responders.

Boaters and paddlers who operate in remote areas are also encouraged to purchase and carry a 406 MHz, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or Personal Locator Beacon.  When a beacon signal is received, search and rescue personnel can retrieve information from a registration database.  This includes the beacon owner’s contact information, emergency contact information, and vessel/aircraft identifying characteristics.  Having this information allows the Coast Guard, or other rescue personnel, to respond appropriately.


Based on the size and type of your vessel, there may be specific federal requirements for carriage of safety equipment.  Click on the following link to review the federal requirement brochure


The Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boaters (including personal watercraft users) take advantage of the free vessel safety check program every year. VSCs are offered by experienced members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons, two of the nation’s premier volunteer boating safety organizations. A VSC is the best possible way to learn about potential violations of state and federal requirements.  But more importantly, these quick exams can keep your boat and passengers out of harm’s way.

Click here for more information or to contact a volunteer near you.


To ensure the safety of your vessel and all persons aboard, consider creating a float plan prior to your trip.  Fill in all pertinent details and leave it with a reliable person that can be trusted to notify the Coast Guard in the event that you do not return or check in as planned.

For more information about float plans click here


Twenty-four children under the age of 13 lost their lives while boating in 2012 and 42 percent of those victims died from drowning.  Of the 10 children that died from drowning, only 20 percent were wearing life jackets.

The Coast Guard encourages the boating public to educate their children on water safety.  There are kid-friendly resources ready for the task!

Boating Safety Sidekicks

Please have a safe and enjoyable 2013 boating season!

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