Coast Guard encourages safe boating

HOUSTON – The Coast Guard is encouraging boaters to be prepared and have safe fun on the water this coming season.

Southeast Texas has been experiencing a tragically sharp increase in the number of boating fatalities on local waterways recently. Just since October, there have been four deaths, and, as recently as March 6, 2008, a search for a missing man near freshwater barrier, just north of Beaumont. With boating season just around the corner, local Coast Guard offices are stressing the importance of safety while enjoying a weekend on the water.

While many boaters have the required safety equipment, that alone does not ensure a safe trip. The required safety equipment will speed assistance and saves lives in the event of an emergency, but good judgment is the most important factor. A good practice is having a float plan and letting others know when they should expect you to return.

“A float plan is one of your most important tools, and it can help save your life,” said Chief Warrant Officer James Simmons, Commanding Officer at Coast Guard Station Sabine. “If one of your loved ones knows when you should return, then they will be able to notify us sooner when you have missed your time”.

Leave a copy of the float plan with a friend, relative or local marina before heading out on the water. If a boater has an emergency, the information will be available to local marine police and the Coast Guard. This step can save valuable time for a rescue effort.

The Coast Guard wants everyone to enjoy boating season, but reminds the public that the water may be dangerous. Be sure to follow the steps below to make certain that you and your family are ready for summer on the southeast Texas waters:

  • Always wear a properly fitted Coast Guard-approved life jacket, especially on children and weak swimmers.
  • Be aware of weather and water conditions.
  • Never go boating alone.
  • Be cautious – do not exceed your ability to handle your vessel.
  • Know that alcohol and drugs contribute to accidents.
  • Be constantly aware of other vessels in the immediate area.

Simmons also encourages boaters to have a working VHF Marine Band radio on board.

“Cell phones are not a replacement for a marine radio as they may not always work,” said Simmmons. “Having a radio on your boat gives you direct access to the Coast Guard. We monitor Channel 16 at all times.”

A wide variety of satellite personal trackers are now in the marketplace for purchase, or even rental. Many are reasonability priced and deliver exact coordinates from the GPS network to the International Emergency Response Center to aid emergency responders.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends that all boaters and paddlers utilize the off-season lull to take a recreational boating safety course to enhance their navigational skills. Courses are offered either through their respective state, with the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the U.S. Power Squadrons, both of which can be accessed through or Additional course information is available through the BOAT/U.S. Foundation at 1-800-336-BOAT.

For additional boating safety tips, boaters can access the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Website.

With everyone working together, we can all make this boating season a fun, and safe, time for everyone.

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