You’re in charge, operate safely

CLEVELAND — The Coast Guard is reminding mariners on the importance of safe vessel operation.

Operator inattention is the leading primary contributing factor in recreational boating accidents.

“Boats are built to be as safe as possible; most danger comes when you add people,” said Mike Baron, the recreational boating safety specialist for the Coast Guard 9th District in Cleveland. “Just like riding a bike, boaters need to learn how to boat and how to be safe.”

Without the proper knowledge, preparation and experience, a planned day of fun in the sun can turn dangerous and deadly, quickly.

The Coast Guard recommends that boat owners and operators:

  • Take a boating safety course to learn the “rules of the road” and boating safety best practices. To find a safety course near you, contact the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
  • Make sure you have enough Coast Guard-approved life jackets on board your vessel for every passenger, and that they’re easily accessible. Don’t store them underneath a seat or below deck. Better yet, wear them! Donning a life jacket is much harder once you’re in the water, especially if you’re injured.
  • Designate a lookout on your vessel, other then the operator, every time you get underway. Lookouts should monitor the surroundings for other boats, swimmers, kayaks, floating debris, and traffic around breakwalls and piers.
  • Share the road…. or waterways in this case. Just like you maintain a safe speed on the road and are cautious of larger vehicles such as trucks and buses, maintain a safe speed on the water and stay clear of ships, water taxis, towboats tugs and barges. And, be aware of your wake to avoid potential harm to other boaters, kayakers and personal property.
  • Always check the weather before getting underway, and continue to monitor the forecast. This can be done by tuning into TV, radio or via weather band radios, and by keeping your eyes to the skies. Conditions can change rapidly, particularly on hot humid days.
  • Get a free vessel safety check to make sure your boat is in proper working order and that you have the proper emergency gear such as flares and fire extinguishers. Just like you take your car in for a scheduled check up, vessel safety checks are the best way to learn about problems with your vessel that may create a danger to you and your passengers. Safety checks are offered by experienced members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons.
  • Let someone on land know where you are going and when you expect to return. For longer trips, file a float plan with someone on land and provide pertinent information such as description of your boat, who is on board, where you’re departing from, your destination and time of arrival.
  • You don’t drink and drive, so don’t drink and boat. Alcohol is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating, and is just as dangerous and illegal as drinking and driving a motor vehicle. Alcohol is even more hazardous on the water. The marine environment such as motion, vibration, engine noise, sun and wind can accelerate a drinker’s impairment.”

“Be the captain of your vessel,” Baron adds. “Don’t let yourself or your passengers become a statistic.”

For information on vessel safety checks, visit

For information on boating safety courses, visit

For more information on National Safe Boating Week and safe boating, visit

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