National Safe Boating Week is May 21-27

Press release from The National Safe Boating Council and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

The National Safe Boating Council and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary remind the boating public that May 21st to 27th is National Safe Boating Week. Boating includes paddle craft of all types, including canoes, single and tandem kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards. If you are on a craft of any kind, you’re on a boat and need to follow all State and Federal boating safety rules and regulations for the type of craft you own.

The three most important boating safety things to remember are: to wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), take a Boating Safety class, and file a Float Plan before departing the dock, including a picture of your craft.  Give it to a friend or relative in case something happens. 

*The most common cause of boating related fatalities is drowning, and most people who drown in boating accidents considered themselves to be good swimmers. Modern life jackets are cool, comfortable, and affordable. If a boater needs a PFD, it is also likely that they will need to be seen. Bright colors matter, and at night, lights and reflective tape provide just about the only hope of being seen. 

*Paddlers should expect to capsize at some point and should know how to re-right and re-board their paddle craft. Paddlers need to know that their paddle craft are vessels under the law, and as such the equipment carriage, navigation light, and navigation rules laws apply to them. Paddlers who intend to rely on a cell phone for emergency communications need to protect their cell phones with a waterproof enclosure. Use the “If Found“ labels available from your local Auxiliary Flotilla. When a paddle craft is found adrift, those labels help us learn if we might be dealing with a missing person or simply a vessel that floated away. The Coast Guard spends tens of millions of taxpayer dollars searching on account of adrift paddle craft

*All boaters (including paddlers) should prepare not just for where they operate, but where the forces of nature may place them when things go wrong. A boater may plan on operating a few hundred yards off the beach. What will a kayaker do when they break a paddle or capsize and get swept out to sea? What will a power boater do when they take on water and capsize a mile off the beach with offshore winds and currents?

*All boaters (including paddlers) who operate on the open ocean or on other big bodies of water should have an emergency ditch kit with safety, signaling, and survival equipment that they can use if they become stranded at sea or on a remote shoreline. That kit should be kept out on deck in a float-free location. Flares, sea dye, signal mirrors, lights, survival blankets, VHF radios, EPIRBS/PLBs, etc., all make great additions to a ditch kit. 

*Boaters should have a plan for what they will do when they have an emergency. Since falls overboard are the number one cause of boating fatalities, plan for what you’ll do when someone falls overboard. A recovery ladder or swim platform is a must. What will you do when you start taking on water? All boaters should know where their through hull fittings are, know how they will access them, and have a kit to effect temporary repairs. These plans should be discussed at the beginning of the trip, and everyone on board should know where the equipment is located. 

*Boaters should protect their night vision by eliminating light pollution. Gauge lights and electronic lights should be dimmed. Decorative lighting is discouraged and is often illegal. 

*Operate under the concept that everyone is a lookout. Boaters should have their passengers help them monitor their surroundings. This is especially important at night. 

*On District 7 inland and coastal waters in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, boaters should have a VHF radio and keep a listening watch on channel 16. By keeping a listening watch on channel 16, boaters will hear other important information such as weather warnings, navigational warnings, and the distress calls of their fellow boaters. Having the radio turned on and set on channel 16 makes it immediately available to make a distress call. 

*Boaters who have a VHF radio need to know that the little red distress button DOES NOT WORK as designed unless the radio is connected to a GPS or has a built-in GPS and the boater has registered for and installed an MMSI number. 

*Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS), Personal Locating Beacons (PLBs), and/or commercial satellite communication devices are vitally important for offshore boaters. They may be the boater’s only hope for alerting authorities of a distress situation. They are a drop in the bucket of overall boating expenses. It is important for EPIRB and PLB owners to ensure their registration information is up to date and accurate. Consult your local marine dealer for advice on the right one for you.

*Navigation rules violations are the most common cause of boating accidents. Boaters need to know the navigation rules. Boaters who are required to take navigational action are required to take their actions early in the encounter and to make those actions obvious to the other boater by an apparent course change. Reduce speed in blind bends, waterway intersections, or any other place where intervening vegetation or structures limits sight lines. Expect to encounter other boats in those areas. 

*Boating Under the Influence (BUI) remains the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Impaired operators can face harsh civil and criminal penalties. Falls overboard are the most common cause of boating fatalities. Impaired passengers are at a much greater risk of falling overboard. In addition, impaired passengers are much more likely to be a liability than an asset in an emergency. We live in a litigious society. What boat owner wants to assume the civil liability risk that comes with impaired passengers?