Boaters urged to play it safe

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In an effort to cut down on boating accidents that become so prevalent this time of year, the Coast Guard in partnership with the BoatU.S. Foundation is giving the public a set of 10 guidelines to stay safe this Fourth of July weekend, according to a recent press release.

Create a safety plan for the weekend, through the help of the Foundation’s online boating “toolbox” at www.BoatUS.com/Foundation/Guide. It contains information on trip planning and preparation, as well as a quiz to test your safety knowledge.

Remember life jackets for not only adult passengers, but for kids as well. The Foundation loans children’s life jackets for free at over 350 marinas, fuel docks, and waterfront businesses nationwide. Always make sure the floating capacity of the life jacket matches the weight of the child.

Take your time coming home from the festivities. With the longer days and fair weather, boaters tend to be out longer and may not realize twilight creeping up on them. Insure that all navigation and spotlights work before venturing out and beware of hard to see anchor lines in crowded fireworks viewing areas. Also, be aware of smaller vessels such as rowboats and canoes that can be hard to spot.

Wear life jackets at all times. Accidents can happen quickly, creating no time to don a life jacket once it has been taken off. Almost three quarters of all fatal boating accident victims have drowned in the past year, and of those, 87 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Don’t overload the boat. Resist the temptation of taking more people than your boat was designed to carry out to see the fireworks, particularly in small boats that are more susceptible to swamping from weather or wake action, particularly in heavy holiday traffic.

Take it easy on the alcohol during the day while cooking in the hot sun. Warm weather can increase alcohol’s effects on the body, so it’s better to carry water and plenty of sunscreen and leave the drinking back at the dock or at home.

Be aware of how to get back in the boat. The Foundation recently tested a number of portable boarding ladders to see which ones were the safest. To see what made the grade, visit www.BoatUS.com/Foundation

Never run the engine when there are swimmers in the water. Even though a boat’s transmission might not be in gear, propellers can still rotate, and carbon monoxide can quickly overcome swimmers.

Take a local safety class before heading out as a refresher, offered by either the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the Sail and Power Squadron.

Last, mostly for those heading offshore, always have an EPIRB readily available. Your life may depend on it.

- Elizabeth Ellis