Five tips to stay safe on the water

1st Coast Guard District News
New Haven, Conn. – Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound’s Command Center watchstanders responded to a distress signal from a 42-foot pleasure craft that struck a submerged object on the Connecticut River May 3, 2013. The Coast Guard was notified when the vessel’s Digital Selective Calling (DSC) alarm that is integrated with the vessel’s VHF radio and GPS automatically sent a signal to the command center, notifying them of distress.

“This was a great success story for the DSC system. This particular situation really highlighted how the DSC system, when used properly with a registered VHF radio and GPS, can save lives,” said Command Duty Officer John Olsen, a member of the Sector command center.

With the summer months fast approaching, and the water and air temperatures getting warmer, it is critical to remember safe boating practices as the season begins.

Here are five easy ways to stay safe on the water:

1. Wear a lifejacket: properly wearing a Coast Guard-approved lifejacket is the single easiest way to improve your survival chances after an accident.  This goes for any form of water sports, from kayaking to sailing.

2. File a float plan: filing this plan simply consists of providing a description of your watercraft, telling someone where you are going and when you plan to return, so in the event you don’t come back, rescuers have a better idea of where to look for you.

3. Mark your gear: if you use indelible ink to put down an address and phone number on paddles, sails, canoe and kayak hulls, we can call you the minute we find the gear to see if your items are lost or if you are actually in trouble.

4. Ensure you have safety equipment with you: bringing flares, a sound-producing device, signaling mirror, marine band radio and a cell phone can all help you get our attention and help us get to you as fast as possible. When winds pick up, it may not be easy to hear your voice, and that’s when a call to the Coast Guard on VHF-CH 16, flares or sound-producing devices can help immensely.

5. Take a boating safety course:  Often boaters and paddle sport enthusiasts get excited to get their new vessel on the water before they’ve learned how to properly use it and avoid dangerous situations.  Free boating classes are provided by the Coast Guard Auxiliary; for a calendar of events in your area, go to:

A great safe boating website is:

Don’t forget, National Safe Boating Week is May 18 – 24.

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