The Coast Guard and partner agencies responded to numerous fog related distress calls in the Tampa Bay and surrounding areas this weekend.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received seven distress calls from boaters in need of assistance due to the fog and would like to remind boaters of a few tips to keep safe on the water:
- VHF-FM radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cellular phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and the inevitable dead battery.
- As a reminder, prepaid cellular phones are unable to assist the Coast Guard with a GPS signal to locate a distress boater.
- Make certain to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change very rapidly and you should keep a watchful eye on the fore-casted conditions.
- Have nautical charts of the area you are boating in, a global positioning device and a reliable means of communication on board your vessel.
- Being educated about safe boating could save a life. Most boating fatalities occur on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety education course. Courses cover many aspects of boating safety, from boat handling to reading the weather.
- The Coast Guard urges boaters to obtain a free vessel safety check, which can be conducted by the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Vessel safety checks are courtesy examinations of your vessel, verifying the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations.
- Always wear a life jacket and be alert and aware while on the water.
- Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan states where you are going and how many people are on board your vessel. It also gives a vessel description, details your destination and what time you expect to arrive there. If you are delayed for some reason, make sure you let someone know.
- Wear your life jacket. More than 90 percent of boaters who drown were not wearing their life jackets. In an emergency there might not be enough time to put one on, so wearing one at all times may save your life.
- Making sure all equipment is in good working order, prior to leaving the dock ensures a safe trip.
“We are entering the time of year where reduced visibility is affecting boaters,” said Lt.j.g. Michael Persun. “It is imperative boaters are aware of weather, have a marine band radio and other safety equipment aboard if they are beset by weather conditions.”
For information on recreational boating safety information, click here.