Coast Guard urges safe boating for Labor Day weekend

5th Coast Guard District News

BALTIMORE — The Coast Guard reminds boaters to boat smart this holiday weekend after Hurricane Irene passed through the area.

Mariners should use caution when transiting the waterways due to the possible presence of debris and other hazards to navigation from the storm.

The Coast Guard along with federal, state and local agencies responded to more than 345 cases in the upper Chesapeake Bay area since October.

Some of the search and rescue cases included: 14 medevacs, 45 boats taking on water or capsized, 39 cases involving reports of people in the water, numerous flare sightings, vessels aground and uncorrelated maydays.

The Coast Guard asks boat operators to take preventative measures to ensure their own safety, safety of passengers and other boaters while on the water.

Being educated about safe boating could save a life. Most boating fatalities occur on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety education course. Courses given by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons cover many aspects of boating safety, from boat handling to reading the weather.

According to Coast Guard statistics in 2009, 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing their life jackets. In an emergency, there is no time to put on a life jacket, so wearing one at all times is very important.

Another aspect of boating safety is not operating a boat under the influence. Just as deadly as drinking and driving, it is also illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. There are stringent penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws, which can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail terms.

In an effort to reduce the number of incidents on the water and to increase the safety of people on the water, the Coast Guard recommends the following:

• Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan states where you are going and how many people are aboard your vessel, gives a complete vessel description, and details your destination and when you plan to return. Float plans aid rescuers in identifying a search area in the event of an emergency while on the water.

• Be sure to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change very rapidly and boaters should keep a watchful eye on the forecasted conditions.

• The Coast Guard urges mariners to outfit their boat with a functioning marine-band radio as cell phones are typically an unreliable source of communication due to gaps in coverage and limited battery life. Using channel 16 on a marine-band radio is the most reliable way to communicate a distress to search and rescue personnel in the event of an emergency while on the water.

To report debris in the waterways contact Coast Guard Sector Baltimore at 410-576-2693.

For further boating safety information, check online at one of the following:

U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

Vessel Safety Checks

Coast Guard Boating Safety page at

National Safe Boating Council


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