Monthly Archives: October 2011

Millions of Canadians Still Operating Their Boats Illegally

Now into their second full season, Canadian boaters required to carry a pleasure craft operating card (PCOC) with them while on the water are not all complying with the mandate. It is estimated that up to 3 million boaters have still not complied with the law.

The PCOC, or boating licence, is required for anyone operating a boat with a motor, regardless of the size of the boat, horsepower of the engine, or age of the operator.

Boaters should be aware that operating without the PCOC are taking  the risk of getting hit with the $250 fine from police on the lookout for offenders.

Boaters are being stopped and police are checking for the pleasure craft card and checking that boaters have all the required safety equipment.

The PCOC was introduced in September of 2009, and once a boater has obtained one, it never expires.

The course can be completed online after going through a tutorial that teaches boat safety. To obtain your PCOC go to BoatingBasicsOnline.

The PCOC system was introduced so that all boaters would have a minimum level of competence about the operation of boats, and according to the Ministry of Transportation, boating accidents are down 30 per cent since the programs introduction.

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Have the Water to Yourself – Enjoy Off-Season Boating

Submitted by John M. Malatak, chief, program operations, U.S. Coast Guard, Boating Safety Division.

I love boating in the fall. The waterways that bustle with activity in the summer often have a different feel in the off-season, which is why fall is a great time to explore along the waterfront or find a quiet place to drop anchor and take in the scenery.

 However, boating in the off-season – when the sun sets early, temperatures drop fast and there are fewer boaters to come to your aid or call for help – carries certain risks, and experienced boaters know to plan for every emergency before heading out.

Consider Worst Case Scenarios

 There’s little or no margin for error in the off-season, so consider every possible scenario, beginning with the possibility of being stranded. Be sure you have enough fuel to get where you’re going and back. The rule of thumb is one-third out, one-third back and one-third for emergencies.

 As a responsible boater, you should always carry a first-aid kit, but in the off-season be sure you also have an onboard emergency kit that includes a change of clothes; calorie-dense snack food; fresh water; a thermos of coffee, cocoa or other warm beverage; duct tape; a waterproof portable flashlight with extra batteries; flares and matches. Stow all of these items in a waterproof bag. Remember to stay away from alcohol when you’re out on the water. It impairs your judgment and hastens the onset of hypothermia.

 Carry a mobile phone only as a backup to your VHF-FM marine radio. Mobile phones frequently lose a signal and are unidirectional – only one person receives the phone call compared to many who may hear a VHF radio distress call. If your boating activity takes you far from shore, consider adding an EPIRB as well. Rescue 21, the advanced command, control and communications system created to improve search and rescue, is currently being deployed in stages across the U.S. This new system gives the Coast Guard the ability to pinpoint the location of a distress call from a DSC-VHF marine radio connected to a GPS receiver. If you get in trouble, especially during the chilly off-season, every minute counts.

 Life jackets are essential boating equipment in any season. Lightweight inflatables are popular in the summer months, but in cold weather, float coats and jackets will not only keep you afloat but also provide additional insulation. Since there is rarely time to put on a life jacket during an emergency, make sure everyone wears one at all times while the boat is under way. Also, consider equipping your life jackets with devices to help rescuers find you more quickly (e.g., whistles, strobe lights, signal mirrors and/or personal locator beacons). If you do fall in, stay with your boat, so rescuers can spot you more easily.

 If anyone ends up in the water, think about how you’ll get them back in the boat. Climbing back in after a fall overboard can be next to impossible in heavy, cold, wet winter clothes, even for someone who is uninjured. Consider providing a sling if your boat has no boarding ladder. If you boat in cold weather often, I strongly recommend that you practice (under warmer conditions) getting back in your boat, as well as bringing passengers aboard under cold-weather conditions.

What to Wear

If you go boating in the fall, dress appropriately:

  • Dress in layers and recognize that even slight changes in the weather can make hypothermia a threat.
  • Take extra dry clothing in a waterproof bag.
  • Wear quality, nonslip footwear; wear socks, even with sandals.

Wear your life jacket or float coat/jacket. Cold water quickly saps your strength. Life jackets provide added insulation. If you fall overboard, wearing a life jacket could give you the time you need to safely reboard the boat. The first reaction when hitting cold water is to gasp and suck in water. A life jacket can give you crucial minutes to regulate your breathing after the shock of falling in.

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Semi-Annual Safety Checklist

Twice a year we recommend going through our checklist to insure you boat is in great shape. It is a good idea to do this prior to winterizing your boat for the winter and again when you bring it out and get it ready for the season.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

  • Check for wear or abrasion, weak or torn seams, secure straps and buckles. For the PFDs onboard for children, try to assess whether they will still fit in the spring. Perhaps a new PFD would be a great Christmas gift. Some types of PFDs are equipped with inflation devices; check to be sure cartridges are secure and charged.

Fire Extinguishers

  • Do you have all required quantities and types of fire extinguishers?
  • Have they been checked within the past year?
  • Are serviceable units tagged by a licensed facility?
  • Are units accessible?
  • Is at least one accessible from the helm or cockpit?
  • Are you and your crew familiar with their operation?

Fuel System

  • Is the system properly grounded at the filter, tank, deck, pump, etc.?
  • Is the fuel tank free from rust or contamination?
  • No leaks from tank, hose or fittings.
  • Hoses U.S.C.G. approved and free of cracking or stiffness with adequate slack to account for vibration.
  • Is tank secured?
  • Fuel shut-off valve on tank and at engine.
  • Engine compartment and engine clean and free of oily rags or flammable materials.
  • Blower switch at remote location.
  • Is your fuel system protected from siphoning?

Safety Equipment

  • Lifelines or rails in good condition.
  • Stanchions or pulpit securely mounted.
  • Hardware tight and sealed at deck.
  • Grab rails secure and free of corrosion or snags that may catch your hands.
  • Non-skid surfaces free from accumulated dirt or excess wear.

Ground Tackle

  • At least two anchors on board.
  • Anchor and rode adequate for your boat and bottom conditions.
  • Tackle properly secured.
  • Length of chain at anchor.
  • Thimble on rode and safety wired shackles.
  • Chafing gear at chocks for extended stays or storm conditions.
  • Anchor stowed for quick accessibility.

Stoves

  • Labeled and designated for marine use.
  • Properly ventilated to remove carbon-monoxide from cabin.
  • Retainers or rails for pots and pans while underway.
  • If built-in, properly insulated and free from combustible materials, CNG and LPG (propane).
  • Stored in separate compartment from boat’s interior and engine room.
  • Tightly secured shut-off valve at tank.
  • Proper labeling and cautions in place at tank location.
  • Hoses, lines and fittings of approved and inspected type.
  • Compartment is ventilated overboard and below level of tank base.

Electrical System

  • Wiring approved for marine applications.
  • System is neatly bundled and secured.
  • Protected against chafing and strain.
  • Adequate flex between bulkhead and engine connections.
  • Clear of exhaust system and bilge.
  • System is protected by circuit breakers or fuses.
  • Grounds to Zincs if required.
  • Wire terminals and connections sealed to prevent corrosion.

Bilge Pumps

  • Will pump(s) adequately remove water in emergency? Do you have a manual backup? Are bilges clean and free to circulate (clear limber holes)? Do you check bilges frequently and not rely on automatic pumps?

Corrosion Prevention

  • Through-hulls, props, shafts, bearings, rudder fittings, and exposed fastenings free of non-destructive corrosion.
  • Zincs are adequate to provide protection.
  • Through-hulls are properly bonded.
  • Inspect the steering cables, engine control linkage and cables, engine mounts and gear case for corrosion.
  • These items are properly lubricated or painted to prevent undue corrosion.

Through-hulls

  • Strainers, intakes and exhaust or discharge fittings are free from restrictions such as barnacles, marine growth or debris.
  • Inspect sea valves for smooth operation.
  • Handles are attached to valves for quick closure.
  • Hoses are in good condition and free from cracking.
  • Double hose-clamps below the waterline.
  • Anti-siphon valve fitted to marine toilet.
  • Through-hull plugs are near fittings or attached to hose in case of emergency.

Batteries

  • Stored in non-corrosive, liquid tight, ventilated containers.
  • Non-conductive covers are fitted over posts.
  • Batteries are well secured.

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New Standards Coming for Inflatable PFDs (Life Jackets)

Sospenders 104808 33 Gram Auto/Manual Inflatable Life JacketRules for inflatable personal flotation devices for recreational boats issued in last March have been withdrawn by the U.S. Coast Guard. Instead, the Coast Guard is reopening the rulemaking process, opening another public comment period.

The agency is changing the policy to reflect an update in proposed industry standards. It generally incorporates Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards into its rules. UL recently came out with new technological and safety standards, which the Coast Guard now wants to incorporate.

Standards cover inflatable devices for adults, where most of the research has been done. The Coast Guard has not yet ruled on what inflatable devices are appropriate for children. The rules at issue cover only those aged 16 and up and weighing more than 80 lbs. It plans to take up the standards for devices for children at a later date.

The Coast Guard now proposes to drop rules regarding grab breaking strength, tear strength, seam strength, and permeability tests for inflation chamber materials; as well as the repacking and rearming test and requirements for marking inflation mechanisms.

The agency does not currently plan a public meeting on the matter but if it gets enough requests for one, it may change its mind. It is accepting public comments through November 28. For details, see http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-09-29/html/2011-25034.htm

For more information on PFDs including inflatables visit our BasicBoatingSafetyCourse.

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Seven Rescued After Wave Swamped Boat

Seven people survived an ordeal at sea, but a man was unable to keep his 79-year-old mother above water.

The following story appeared in the Miami Herald and struck me as one that needed to be shared.  We want to continue to emphasize the inherent dangers of boating and the simply safety procedures that should be followed to prevent tragedy.

Boat Capsizes Florida Keys

Photo Courtesy AP

A son tried to keep his 79-year-old mother alive by holding her frail body out of the rough ocean waters. A mother kept her 3-year-old daughter from drowning by sitting her on a floating cooler for nearly a day.

Three men who did not know how to swim — and had no life vests — held on for dear life to the side of the capsized boat.

Why did three men who didn’t know how to swim have no life jackets on and HELLO, they all should have stayed with the boat!

The drama played out over the weekend when a Hialeah family’s fishing trip off the Florida Keys turned tragic with the death of the elderly woman, who drowned despite her son’s efforts. Those who survived the ordeal were rescued on Sunday after drifting 20 hours at sea.

Although it is not reported, my guess is that the woman who drowned didn’t have on a life jacket either or why would her son have to hold her up?

Rough seas, bad weather, lack of enough personal flotation devices and number of passengers — eight — loaded onto a 22-foot pleasure craft will be factors in the probe of the accident off Long Key on Saturday, said Robert Dube, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the agency investigating the fatal accident.

Among the survivors was a 3-year-old girl, who drifted — from Saturday at noon to Sunday morning — along with her mother and two other women. All four females wore personal floatation devices and were found four miles from the boat’s wreckage.

Had they stayed with the boat they all would have been rescued at the same time. The one thing they did get right is that they followed Florida Law which requires children 6 or under on a boat 26 feet or less to wear a life jacket if the boat is moving. If the craft is anchored or docked, they don’t have to wear one.

The boat was noticed by a local Fishing Captain who called 911. For more information on what to do if you find yourself in a capsize situation visit our BasicBoatingCourse.

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Vandalism to ATONs Endangers Mariners

Red and Green Navigation Buoy with Sea LionsThe Coast Guard is asking for the public’s help to put a stop to the vandalism of aids to navigation (ATON).

Several navigational lights have recently been vandalized rendering them inoperable. Recently the batteries were deliberately and illegally removed from a light marking an offshore hazard.

The loss of this equipment costs taxpayers and the Coast Guard in many ways: first is the obvious financial burden of replacing the damaged or stolen equipment, second is the slowing of commercial and recreational traffic and third, is the possibility of environmental damage that could result from a collision or grounding that occurs because a hazard is not marked.

Those found guilty of vandalism to ATON can be fined up to $2,500 and imprisoned for up to five years. Anybody witnessing vandalism to a navigational aid or finding a damaged aid should contact their nearest Coast Guard unit.

“The marine highway, marked by ATONs, is the lifeblood of commerce and transportation. It is vitally important that these aids to navigation remain a reliable tool for mariners” said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Gray, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Maple.

Maple’s crew is responsible for servicing many of the buoys, lights and beacons in Southeast Alaska. Commissioned on Oct. 19, 2001, Maple is a 225-foot Juniper-Class buoy tender homeported in Sitka. Maple is operated by seven officers and a crew of 46 men and women.

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Recreational Boat Registration Statistics Are In

NMMAThe National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) announced that boat registration numbers decreased 2.2 percent (or 282,615 boats) for a total of 12.5 million registered boats in 2010 compared to 2009’s 12.7 million. This new data is from NMMA’s 2010 U.S. Recreational Boat Registration Statistics Report.

Of the 12.5 million registered recreational boats, the report notes there were 183,930 new model year powerboats sold and registered in the U.S. in 2010.

The report provides incredibly detailed registration data on a national, regional and state level and includes new boat registrations, U.S. Coast Guard documented boats and total registrations by boat segment, size, power, and hull material. Regional summaries include population/income estimates and shoreline/inland water data. The report again ranks each state based on total boat registrations with the top 10 being:

  1.  Florida: 914,535 registered boats in 2010. Florida held the number one spot for total boat registrations, decreasing 3.6 percent from 2009’s 949,030.
  2. Minnesota: 813,976 registered boats in 2010. Minnesota moved from third to second for boat registrations, increasing 0.3 percent from 2009’s 811.775.
  3. Michigan: 812,066 registered boats in 2010. Michigan moved from fourth to third, staying relatively flat in 2010 compared to 2009’s 811,670.
  4. California: 810,008 registered boats in 2010. California dropped to fourth from second, decreasing 10.7 percent compared to 2009’s 906,988.
  5. Wisconsin: 615,335 registered boats in 2010. Wisconsin remained ranked fifth, decreasing 1.8 percent compared to 2009’s 626,304.
  6. Texas: 596,830 registered boats in 2010. Texas held its sixth place ranking, decreasing 4.1 percent compared to 2009’s 622,184.
  7. New York: 475,689 registered boats in 2010. New York was again ranked seventh for total boat registrations, decreasing 0.7 percent from 2009’s 479,161.
  8. South Carolina: 435,491 registered boats in 2010. South Carolina held its ranking in eighth place, remaining flat with 2009’s 435,528.
  9. Ohio: 430,710 registered boats in 2010. Ohio kept its ninth place ranking for total boat registrations, increasing 1.4 percent compared to 2009’s 424,877.
  10. North Carolina: 400,846 registered boats in 2010. North Carolina again ranked tenth, decreasing 1.2 percent compared to 2009’s 405,663.

 In addition, the report analyzes total boat registrations and finds:

  • 95 percent of mechanically propelled boats are less than 26 foot in length; 42 percent are less than 16 foot in length and 54 percent are between 16 and 25 foot in length.
  • 57 percent of mechanically propelled boats have hulls made of fiberglass; 38 percent have hulls made of metal.
  • 66 percent of mechanically propelled boats are outboard boats; 20 percent are inboard/PWC; and 13 percent are sterndrive boats.
  • The Pacific region posted the largest decline in registrations for 2010, down 9 percent compared to a year ago. The Mid-Atlantic region posted a 207% increase in registrations.
  • The Great Lakes region again ranked first, accounting for slightly more than a quarter (27 percent) of registered boats in 2010.

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