Coast Guard encourages safe-boating practices this Fourth of July Weekend

CLEVELAND – In recognition of the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, the Ninth Coast Guard District is emphasizing boating safety and would like to remind boaters to take the proper precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.

Between June 26-28, 2009, the Coast Guard rescued 14 people who had fallen into the water. State and local authorities rescued an additional 10 people in distress, some with the help of good Samaritans.

During that same time period, four people died while recreating in or on the Great Lakes. None of those people were wearing any type of personal flotation device.

The Coast Guard recommends that you wear a life jacket at all times when boating. It is much more difficult to locate, access or don a life jacket after an accident has occurred. The law states that all vessels carry one wearable life jacket for each person aboard. Any boat 16-feet and longer (except canoes and kayaks) must also carry one throwable flotation device.

Some states require to children to wear life jackets at all times while out on the water. The Coast Guard recommends that everyone wear a life jacket at all times. Flotation devices are available for pets as well. Recently, a man and his dog survived for three hours in the water after their boat sank in Lake St. Clair. Both the man and his pet had life jackets on.

More information on life jackets can be found at

All mariners are encouraged to invest in a marine-band radio to be used as their primary means of distress while on the water. VHF channel 16 is the international hailing and distress channel, and is always monitored by the Coast Guard.

Marine-band radios provide a much more reliable means of communication than a cellular phone, and when a distress call is sent out via radio, more than one party will receive it. Nearby boaters can hear it and offer immediate assistance.

Signaling devices are another means of alerting the Coast Guard, marine patrols or nearby boaters if you are in distress. Signaling devices include: flares (for both day and night), signal mirrors and whistles/air horn or other sound producing device.

Information on signaling devices can be found at

Float plans are another resource that can be used to locate overdue or missing boaters. These can be as simple as a note placed under your car’s windshield wiper or conversation with a loved one staying ashore and are actions completed prior to getting underway. Plans should explain the planned destination or route and also what time you are expected to return. These should be left with someone on shore so that in the event you don’t return, that person can notify the proper authorities.

Information on how to obtain a blank float plan can be found at

EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) transmit a GPS signal on a 406 MHz frequency. When an EPIRB is activated, it transmits a signal to search and rescue personnel through the International Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System, allowing them to track the location of a boater in distress. Only 406 MHz beacons are monitored by this system.

When beacons are properly registered, they transmit the owner’s contact information, emergency contact information and vessel characteristics. In the U.S., users are required by law to directly register their beacon at or by calling 1-888-212-SAVE.

The Coast Guard recommends that all boaters (including personal watercraft users) take advantage of the free vessel Safety Check and Boating Safety classes offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron. The safety examiner will inspect safety gear and ensure that all machinery is in proper working order.

All mariners should be aware of the dangers that come from Boating under the Influence (BUI). BUI is just as dangerous as drinking and driving a car or motorcycle. Alcohol accounts for nearly one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. People are actually more likely to become impaired while on the water as opposed to land. The marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerate the level of impairment caused by alcohol.

The penalties for BUI can include fines, revocation of operator privileges and serious jail terms.

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.