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Boaters Urged To Be Safe In 2016

Series: Boating Safety | Story 11

Recent rain and snow storms bringing both snowpack up north and flooding across the west and mid-west have many thinking that water levels in surrounding lakes and rivers will be increasing as the year progresses. Add lower gas prices to the mix and boaters will be coming back to the water this spring in droves. Power boaters, sailors, paddlers - many will be ill prepared to deal with the problems of a sudden spring or summer storm that

this record breaking El Nino season will be offering.

If you haven't taken a boating safety course, this is the time to find one and learn how to deal with weather and other emergencies. Most states offer classroom and online boating education courses for free. The Power Squadron

and Coast Guard Auxiliary offer classroom and online courses for a slight fee that are all convenient and provide instructors capable of providing sound and prudent advice when it comes to boating safety.

Don't hesitate to check with your local department of natural resources, game and fish agency, sheriff's marine deputy or other officials about getting a free vessel safety check to assure yourself and your family that your boat is safe, sound and has the necessary safety equipment on board to keep a good day good.

You may not be planning an open ocean voyage or see little need for the rules of seamanship to guide your planning for a day on the lake, but the water doesn't know the difference and quite often the reason that an ocean voyage is (seemingly) safer is because sailors generally take the potential hazards seriously and prepare properly beforehand.

Lakes, rivers and streams, inland lakes and other waterways pose many of the same hazards and opportunities for problems that ocean-going boats and sailors experience-and in some situations - even more.

There are many things to consider before getting out on the local lake or favorite body of water with your boat during the year, and the Coast Guard joins the National Safe Boating Council and others in offering four easy-to-follow basic principles for a safer year for you and your family on

the water before you do. Simply stated, the four principles are -

1. Wearing life jackets saves lives: Most, if not all, boating-safety education professionals agree that the one single thing that would contribute the most to reducing deaths and saving lives would be wearing

life jackets. Statistics show time and time again that many boating fatalities could have been avoided if the victim had only been wearing a life jacket. Wearing a life jacket while boating is like wearing a seat belt when driving or riding in a car. Wear one anytime you are on a boat or even

near the water or on a boat dock. And, with the new inflatable life jacket technology in the marketplace, a variety of life jackets are available for those over the age of 16 that are not bulky, hot or uncomfortable. Don't forget that for those boaters who are 12 years of age or younger, the law requires them to wear a life jacket (properly sized, fitted and worn to the manufacturer's specifications) any time they're on a boat that is underway (not at anchor, made fast to the shore or aground) - even when launching or

retrieving your boat.

2. Boater safety education saves lives: Get, be and stay prepared: Take a boating safety education course. Statistics show that more than 80 percent

of those involved in boating fatalities have never taken a boating safety course or had any other type of formal boating education. Your state's natural resources agency, the Power Squadron and Coast Guard Auxiliary have

excellent volunteer instructors who offer numerous classes throughout the year. These classes offer introductory and basic information in such subject areas as different boat types, things you need to know before getting underway, how to tow and operate your boat correctly, legal requirements, basic weather, boating emergencies and what to do as well as other interesting subject areas about boats and boating. The instructors are eager, able and ready to help you learn more about operating your boat safely and proficiently. And in most cases, these classes are offered free of charge. Once you complete the brief introductory eight hour course, check with your insurance agent as most companies offer a reduced insurance premium to educated boat owners and operators. National Association of State

Boating Law Administrator (NASBLA) certified courses are also offered by many groups such as the Red Cross and other boating related organizations.

3. Safe boats save lives: Get a free Vessel Safety Check: Boats that are properly equipped, in good operating condition and safe from hazards are less likely to be involved in accidents and fatalities. While the law doesn't require certain items or supplies such as an anchor, visual distress signals or other safety equipment on inland lakes, Federal requirements on many rivers and other waterways subject to Federal jurisdiction are more

stringent and demanding. Local law-enforcement officers would be happy to check your boat for you. Or, contact representatives of the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron to request a free Vessel Safety Check by

visiting http://www.safetyseal.net and clicking on "I WANT A VSC." Learn what you need to have to make sure your boat is always seaworthy and ready to go for a safe trip.

4. Sober boating saves lives: Avoid alcohol and other drugs while on or near the water. Approximately 40 percent of all boating fatalities involve

the use of alcohol as a primary contributing factor. If you are drunk or under the influence of drugs and get into an accident on the water, but are fortunate enough to survive, you will likely suffer financial and personal consequences such as large fines and the possible loss of automobile driving privileges. Drugs and alcohol don't just impact the boat operator; passengers who have been drinking alcohol, for example, are 10 times more likely to fall overboard. And, if they aren't wearing life jackets, possibly face drowning. You hear it all the time: Water and alcohol don't mix! Many

states have a zero-tolerance and that means any boat operator impaired to the slightest degree could be arrested. Don't risk a great day on the water-keep a good day good and go home safe.

These are just the basics! But following these four basic boating tips will help keep you and those you care about safe.

Make sure your boat and trailer are ready to go, batteries are charged, fuel, oil and other maintenance issues checked. Double check the weather forecast for the location you'll be boating at before you go. Ensure you having plenty of water, sunscreen, a VHF marine band radio or other means of

communication and other supplies you may need. These simple acts will help ensure a good day doesn't turn bad.

Filing a float plan is also a great idea; a form is available at

http://floatplancentral.cgaux.org/download USCGFloatPlan.pdf.

The U.S. Coast Guard hopes that you and your loved ones enjoy boating during 2016 and in the years to come. Safe boating is no accident - keep a good day on the water good by following these four easy-to-follow basic principles.

For more information, be sure to check out http://www.uscgboating.org and don't forget to wear your life jacket!

Author Bio

Ed Huntsman, Boating Editor

Author photo

Recreational boating safety Program Manager, United States Coast Guard, Eighth Coast Guard District. - Retired


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