Coast Guard reminds boaters to stay safety conscious after busy holiday weekend

CLEVELAND — U.S. Coast Guard boat and aircrews throughout the Great Lakes have seen thousands of vessels on the water during and since Memorial Day weekend and the 9th Coast Guard District is reminding boaters to take the proper safety precautions while on the water.

Over the holiday weekend, Coast Guardsmen across all five Great Lakes in small boats, aircraft and cutters, as well as members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, saved nine lives, assisted 87 lives, saved or assisted $2,139,539 worth of property, and conducted 594 recreational vessel safety boardings. Of those 594 boardings, five vessel operators were cited for boating under the influence, and the voyages of 25 recreational vessels were terminated because of various safety violations.

The most common safety violations were vessels underway without enough life jackets for everyone aboard, or lacking the required number of fire extinguishers. Other common violations included mariners not carrying a required throwable flotation device, having expired flares onboard, vessels lacking sound producing devices, vessels without functioning navigation lights, and unregistered or improperly registered vessels underway.

Despite the sizeable number of responses, Coast Guardsmen did report they saw many boaters wearing their life jackets.

“We can never stress enough the importance of wearing a life jacket while underway so we were thrilled to learn a large number of boaters made the decision to wear one,” said Frank Jennings Jr., recreational boating safety program manager for the 9th Coast Guard District. “A life jacket is one of the most important pieces of life-saving equipment available to the boating community.”

The Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boaters, (including paddlers and those aboard personal watercraft) take advantage of free vessel safety checks offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron.

“A VSC is your best way of learning about problems that might put you in violation of state or federal laws or, worse, create danger for you or your passengers on the water,” said Jennings.

Consumption of alcohol while boating causes one of the biggest safety hazards for boaters and their passengers.

Drink for drink, a boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver. Alcohol is more hazardous on the water than on land because the marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates a drinker’s impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol.

Boaters who want to make alcohol part of the day’s entertainment should plan to have a party ashore at the dock, in a picnic area, at a boating club, or in a backyard, choosing a location that allows sufficient time to sober up before getting back into a car or boat.

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