Coast Guard Urges Safe Boating for Holiday Weekend

Coast Guard Urges Safe Boating for Holiday Weekend
Petty Officer 3rd Class Ana Radolinski, a boarding officer at Coast Guard Station New York, performs a routine safety boarding while patrolling the Hudson River, N.Y., during Operation Dry Water, June 28, 2014. Photo/U.S. Coast Guard by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone.

In preparation for the 4th of July weekend, the Coast Guard reminds boaters to take the proper precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend on the water. The Coast Guard offers the following guidance for safe recreational boating.

Before leaving port to enjoy evening fireworks, identify the location of any established Coast Guard safety zones and stay well outside zone boundaries or in designated viewing areas. Safety zones are established to protect boaters from falling fireworks debris.

Alcohol use is a primary contributing factor in 17 percent of all recreational boating fatalities.

Ensure your vessel’s navigational lighting and sound signals are working properly. Pack spare bulbs as a precaution. Before leaving the dock, provide passengers with an overview of on board safety equipment and its intended use.

Do not launch or use fireworks on board a vessel. Fireworks can be mistaken as a sign of distress, needlessly attracting Coast Guard and other rescue resources.

Life jackets save lives. Drowning is the leading cause of death in boating-related mishaps. And, most boating fatalities are the result of unexpected falls overboard, either while a vessel is underway or drifting. Of those who drown, 90 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Wearing a life jacket helps ensure a boater stays afloat so they can either self-rescue or be rescued by other boaters in the area.

The Coast Guard recommends that you wear a life jacket at all times when boating. Many states require children to wear life jackets at all times while underway. It is much more difficult to locate, access or don a life jacket after an accident or a fall overboard has occurred. Federal and state safe boating laws require that all recreational vessels carry one U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket of appropriate size and type for each person aboard. In addition, recreational vessels 16-feet and longer (except canoes and kayaks) must carry one U.S. Coast Guard-approved throw-able flotation device, such as a life ring.

Boaters and their guests should always wear a life jacket when swimming from a boat. Each year the Coast Guard responds to several incidents involving unanchored boats drifting away from occupants who were swimming and not wearing a life jacket. Without the benefit of wearing a life jacket, there is little hope of survival once the boat drifts away. For more information on life jackets, visit

An overloaded vessel is a great danger, especially on a crowded waterway. Pleasure crafts have a rated maximum capacity established by the manufacturer. Many of these vessels have a rating plate attached to the transom, near the helm or cabin. For more information regarding vessel over load, visit

All mariners are encouraged to invest in a VHF-FM marine-band radio as their primary means of communication on the water. VHF-FM marine-band radios are far more reliable than cell phones in the marine environment. VHF-FM Channel 16, the international hailing and distress channel, is monitored by the Coast Guard and state marine patrols around the clock. Urgent safety information and weather reports for boaters are also broadcasted over marine band radio channels.

Float plans are another resource that can be used to locate overdue or missing boaters. Float plans should explain the planned destination or route, description of your vessel and also what time you are expected to return. These should be left with someone on shore so that in the event you don’t return, that person can notify the proper authorities.

For more information on how to obtain a blank float plan, visit

All mariners should be aware of the dangers associated with Boating Under the Influence (BUI). BUI is just as dangerous as drinking and driving on the road. Alcohol use is a primary contributing factor in 17 percent of all recreational boating fatalities. People are actually more likely to become impaired while on the water as opposed to land. Stressors in the marine environment, such as motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray, enhance the effects of impairment on the water.

For more information on Boating under the Influence, visit