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Are You Prepared to Safely Boat This Labor Day Weekend?

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With gas prices continuing to fall, BoatUS says more boaters are expected to take to the water this Labor Day weekend and that safety should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind while boating.

According to an online survey of BoatUS members across the country, 65% of respondents plan on boating this Labor Day weekend. Almost 80% said they are welcoming lower gas prices and plan to extend their boating season into the fall.

“We know the Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of summer, but for many boaters, the long weekend serves as a ‘last blast’ invitation to get out on the water, and we expect increased boating activity on lakes and coastal waterways,” said John Condon, vice president of towing services for BoatUS. “Our survey also indicated that there’s no end in sight for a lot of boaters as they are starting to take advantage of lower gas prices and extend their season into the fall. However, this is a great opportunity to get boaters to think about finishing their season with safety and preparedness in mind.”

BoatUS typically receives more than 90,000 calls annually with the major boating holidays—Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day—driving the most calls for assistance from members and non-members. The most common requests for on-water assistance from recreational boaters include some type of engine or mechanical breakdown, running aground in a shallow area, needing a jumpstart, running out of fuel, and needing a tow.

Capt. Richard Lenardson, owner of TowBoatUS in Grand Haven, Michigan, and his team provide on-water assistance for boaters on Lake Michigan. They are anticipating another busy holiday weekend this Labor Day and are communicating their safety message to boaters now before the holiday rush picks up.

“You’ve got to treat the lake like an ocean,” Lenardson said. “You never know what the waters and weather will do from one minute to the next, so preparation and safety are key.” Lenardson urges all boaters to have reliable communications equipment such as a VHF marine radio and not depend solely on cell coverage, which can be lost offshore.

Another TowBoatUS captain, Robert Estrada, owner of the Lake Lanier, Georgia operation, urges boating safety fundamentals.

“Many people use checklists for their grocery shopping, so I tell boaters to use a checklist for boating,” Estrada said. “U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets should always be first on your list – especially for children, followed by boating safety essentials like flares, fire extinguishers, working navigation lights, and inspected engines and fuel systems.”

Estrada also recommends that a sober boat operator is designated before leaving the dock.

A range of boating safety topics—which can be customized to include on your own checklist—are available at the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water.

And if you really want to fine-tune your boating skills, Boaters University offers courses in seamanship, boat handling, navigation, offshore cruising, weather, safety & rescue at sea, marine diesel maintenance, and more.

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