Coast Guard urges mariners to use survival gear

Survival SuitBOSTON – Coast Guard officials are urging the recreational and commercial boating public to ensure they have appropriate survival gear on board as the winter season arrives.

In the past week, three notable incidents have occurred that display the urgent need for vigilance while out at sea.

The sailing vessel Raw Faith became disable far off shore while transiting from Massachusetts to Bermuda. The men had only one survival suit on board. With only a hand-held radio, the crew used their satellite beacon to notify rescuers of their distress. Coast Guard rescue crews hoisted the men to safety Dec. 7, 2010. The ship sank about 36 hours after notification of their distress.

The lobster boat Leidy Ana was sent back to port Dec. 10, 2010 by the Coast Guard Cutter Flyingfish, for multiple safety violations. A boarding crew found that both the life raft and satellite beacon were outdated, federally mandated safety items on board commercial vessels. The vessel with three fishermen on board was escorted back to port and will undergo safety inspections prior to returning to sea.

The lobster boat Timothy Michael lost a crewman overboard Dec. 12, 2010 in rough weather about 30 miles south of Matinicus Island, Maine. Two Coast Guard aircraft and two Coast Guard cutters searched the area since the report came in at 12 p.m. Dec. 12. Fellow crewmen threw the man a life ring, but he failed to hold on and slipped beneath the surface and did not resurface. The fisherman was not wearing any safety gear when he went overboard. The search of the missing fisherman was suspended at 1 p.m. Dec. 13.

“The importance of survival gear has unfortunately been brought to the forefront in the past week with the tragic loss of a lobsterman off the coast of Maine and the sailing vessel Raw Faith,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Barker, the command center chief of the First Coast Guard District Command Center in Boston. “It is important to be well prepared when going to sea, especially when water temperatures allow only minutes of survival time when exposed to the open water.”

A life on the water is inherently dangerous work. Safety equipment is paramount for fishermen and recreational boaters to return safely to port.

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