Editor’s Note: These tips were directed at boaters in the Northeast United States, as Labor Day approached, but the principles and practices apply to all boaters, everywhere, all the time.
NEW YORK —The Coast Guard warns boaters in the Tri-State area to use extra caution while out on the water this Labor Day weekend.
Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of the traditional beach and boating season, and is usually a very busy weekend on the water.
So far during the 2017 boating season, Coast Guard units throughout New York City, Long Island, northern New Jersey, and Connecticut have completed approximately 2,500 boardings on recreational vessels and more than 500 boardings on various types of paddle crafts.
Coast Guard crews, along with local and state law enforcement agencies, will be patrolling, conducting safety checks, and watching for individuals boating while intoxicated or operating in an unsafe manner.
The Coast Guard will also be issuing “If Found/Contact” decals to mariners. These stickers, when placed visibly on a kayak, paddle board, or dinghy, help searchers contact the owner in case the item goes adrift. They can potentially save countless hours of search efforts and resources.
Consider these boating safety tips before leaving the dock
** Never boat under the influence (BUI)** It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. There are stringent penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws, which can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail terms. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
File a float plan Leave a detailed float plan with a friend or family member who is staying back. The sooner a craft can be reported overdue, the more likely a positive outcome will result. Facts need to be quickly and accurately conveyed in an emergency. Your float plan should include detailed information that rescue personnel need in order to find you. For examples of a float plan, and for more information, visit www.floatplancentral.org before you go.
Wear a life jacket Life jackets save lives. In 2016, 80 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, approximately 83 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can leave even a strong swimmer injured, unconscious, or exhausted in the water.
Take a VHF-FM marine radio Cell phones may lose signal off shore and run out of batteries after a day on the water. They are helpful, but not reliable for emergencies. VHF-channel 16 is the marine emergency channel. It should only be used for emergencies. Boaters can reach the Coast Guard on marine-band radios at any time, day or night.
Monitor weather broadcasts Watch for current storm and small craft advisories. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly. Forecasts can be heard by tuning in to channels 1 through 5 on a VHF marine radio or by checking the NWS website at www.weather.gov
Have a signaling device to communicate an emergency Boaters should have a signal flares, whistle, horn, or signal mirror, in addition to an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) to alert first responders to the location of a water emergency.