Monthly Archives: March 2014

Spring Officially Here, USCG Urges Boaters To Use Caution

1st Coast Guard District News
BOSTON — As air temperatures  get warmer, more and more recreational boaters are taking to the water and the Coast Guard cautions boaters not to be fooled by the warmer air temperatures; the water is still cold, very cold.

Every year the Coast Guard responds to cold water accidents resulting in the untimely deaths of unsuspecting boaters.

The sudden immersion in cold water can result in hypothermia and death.

Hypothermia is dangerous because it affects the body’s core – the brain, heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Even a mild case of hypothermia affects your physical and mental abilities, and increases the risk of accidents. Severe hypothermia causes loss of consciousness and may result in death. Cold water is especially dangerous because loss of body heat occurs 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature falls below its normal level of 98.6°F to 95°F or cooler.

The Coast Guard strongly urges all boaters to wear life jackets anytime while out on the water and to always check the weather conditions before heading out. Having proper survival gear while underway and filing a float plan with a friend or family member is strongly recommended.

“One of the key things to keep in mind is that even if it’s warm out, the water is still cold,” said Walt Taylor, the 1st Coast Guard District’s Recreational Boating Safety specialist. “When a person falls in cold water, their body responds to the initial shock with an instantaneous gasp for air, which if their head is underwater may cause the person to swallow water and drown.”

Wearing a lifejacket is proven to save lives because it helps keep your head out of the water if you fall overboard.

“By the time you fall in the water, it’s probably too late to try and put on a lifejacket,” said Taylor. “It only works if you wear it.”

All Coast Guard personnel that operate aboard a vessel are required to wear the appropriate hypothermia protection and survival equipment according to air and water temperatures.

Click here for an important boating safety message.

For more information about safe boating, please visit: http://www.uscgboating.org/.

The American Canoe Association provides more information on cold water survival.

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Informed Boater on Board

Make passenger safety briefings part of your predeparture routine.

Contributed by John Malatak, chief, Program Operations, U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division.

During an onboard emergency, precious seconds can be lost telling passengers where to locate and how to use vital safety equipment. If the boat operator (you) has been injured or otherwise put out of commission, the situation can suddenly turn life-threatening — too often with tragic results.

Two summers ago off the Massachusetts coast, the captain of a sailboat was knocked overboard by the boom while trying to get the sails down during a severe thunderstorm. His only passenger — a friend visiting from out of town — didn’t know how to radio for help. When he finally got through to the Coast Guard station, which was less than a half-mile away, he was unable to tell the dispatcher where he was. By the time the Coast Guard determined the vessel’s position and reached it with a patrol boat, it was too late. The captain had drowned because the only other person on board did not know what action to take in an emergency.

If you’re taking passengers along on your boat, make a full safety briefing part of your predeparture routine. It only takes a few minutes to show passengers where safety equipment is stored and how to use it, as well as the proper procedures for calling for emergency assistance. Consider what your passengers need to know in an emergency, especially if you are injured or fall overboard; then, customize the briefing to the unique characteristics of your boat.

Time spent briefing your passengers about onboard procedures and safety can make a huge difference in the event of a true emergency, when every second counts. Consider printing your safety orientation on a laminated card that can be posted in a prominent spot on your vessel. Also, label where the equipment is located on your boat. Read on to find out what your passengers need to know.

Safety Briefing Points:

1. Where life jackets are located and how to wear them properly. (The Coast Guard strongly suggests that all passengers wear their life jacket at all times while on board an open boat.) If your passengers are not wearing their life jacket, at a minimum have them put a life jacket on and size it properly. Then have them put a piece of masking tape on it and write their name on the tape. That way, in an emergency situation, they will have a prefitted life jacket that is easy to locate.  And remember, if you have children on board, they will need a proper-fitting, child-sized life jacket.

2. How to use the VHF marine radio and make a mayday distress call.

3. Where to find the EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon), survival equipment, visual distress signals, first-aid kit and fire extinguisher — and how to use them.

4. What to do if someone falls overboard and where to find the throw bags, life rings and life slings.

5. How to stop the boat safely and any unique features and/or idiosyncrasies of your boat, particularly if they might have an impact on passenger safety.

6. Where the anchor is located and how to stop and anchor the boat.

7. That they need to follow instructions exactly and get out of the way if something goes wrong and the boat operator has not asked for assistance. Some frightened people will stand rooted in place while chaos is going on around them. Knowing they should stay out of the way is important information.

8. How to use any installed global positioning system (GPS) equipment you may have on board.

Wrap up your briefing by answering any additional questions they may have. If any passengers are confused about boating safety procedures, the time for clarification is before you leave the dock.

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