The National Weather Service has partnered with the National Safe Boating Council to help promote safe boating practices. For more information, go to http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/marine/safeboating/.
Before you and your family get out on the water this year, grab a life jacket and "Wear It!" Nearly 85 percent of those who drown while boating were not wearing a life jacket.
Wearing a life jacket is one of the most effective and simple life-saving strategies for safe recreational boating. Boaters are required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on board for every passenger on their vessel.
Today's life jackets are available in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. They are comfortable, lightweight, and perfect for any boating activity.
The most important thing is this: remember to grab a life jacket and "Wear It!"
...Vessel Safety Checks...
The following is a safe boating message from the National Safe Boating Council and the National Weather Service.
Thunderstorms can be a mariner's worst nightmare. They can develop quickly and create dangerous wind and wave conditions. Thunderstorms can bring shifting and gusty winds, lightning, waterspouts, and torrential downpours which can turn a day's pleasure into a nightmare of distress.
There are no specific warnings or advisories for lightning but all thunderstorms produce lightning. A lightning strike to a vessel can be catastrophic, especially if it results in a fire or loss of electronics. If your boat has a cabin, then stay inside and avoid touching metal or electrical devices. If your boat doesn't have a cabin, stay as low as you can in the boat.
Boaters should use extra caution when thunderstorm conditions exist and have a plan of escape. Mariners are especially vulnerable as at times they may unable to reach port quickly. It is therefore strongly recommended you do not venture out if thunderstorms are a possibility. If you do venture out and recognize thunderstorms nearby, head to port or safe shelter as quickly as possible. Ultimately, boating safety begins ashore with planning and training. Keep in mind that thunderstorms are usually brief so waiting it out is better than riding it out.
...Boating Under the Influence...
The following is a safe boating message from the National Safe Boating Council and the National Weather Service for this year's National Safe Boating Week.
The effects of alcohol can be even more hazardous on the water than on land. Boating Under the Influence, or BUI, affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. These impairments can increase the risk of being involved in a boating accident - for both passengers and boat operators. Alcohol is a contributing factor in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities.
It is illegal to operate any boat or watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Penalties can include fines, suspension or revocation of your drivers license and even jail time.
Every boater needs to understand the risks of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
After a long winter...thoughts naturally turn toward warm weather recreational activities. Unseasonably warm afternoons of the spring and fall frequently attract boaters and other recreational enthusiasts to our beautiful lakes, rivers, streams and coastal waters.
Those venturing out need to be aware of the dangers posed by low water temperatures. On warm days, it is easy to overlook the fact that water temperature may be much lower than the air temperature. Furthermore, some rivers and streams are fed by cold runoff from the melting of snow upstream.
Immersion in cold water can rapidly become life threatening. Should your craft capsize...or you fall in a swift river...hypothermia in water with temperatures in the upper 30s and 40s can occur in just a matter of minutes. In fact...the human body cannot survive in water temperatures in the 50s and 60s for very long as water conducts body heat away 26 times faster than air of the same temperature. The cold water rapidly causes extremities to become numb...weakening the ability of muscles to work effectively.
The National Weather Service urges the following safety measures to protect yourself and maximize your enjoyment of our nation's waterways:
Consider postponing small craft boating activities until water temperatures become warmer in late spring and summer. Keep in mind that even unseasonably warm air temperatures on mild spring and fall afternoons can drop rapidly later in the day.
When you do boat, canoe, or kayak; wear appropriate protective gear and clothing in the event of exposure, accident or capsize. Remember, no matter the season, when you are on the water always wear a life jacket.
Always file a float plan, letting a close family member or friend know your plans, your boats communication capability, and the physical details of your craft, all of which will assist rescue personnel in the event you get into trouble.
Safe boating is no accident! Please take the time to think safety first and plan appropriately for weather and water conditions before heading out on our oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams.
Understanding a marine forecast is critical to safe boating. Weather and wave conditions can change suddenly, catching boaters off guard and creating life threatening conditions.
Typical marine forecasts predict wind speed and direction, wave heights and periods, roughness of near shore waters, and significant weather. Marine forecasts cover large areas and the forecast elements are often given in ranges. The significant weather may not occur over the entire area or during the entire forecast period. The ranges represent average conditions over a period of time (usually 12 hours) and the actual conditions may be lower or higher than the forecast range. Boaters should plan for conditions above and below the predicted ranges.
Take particular note of any current advisories and warnings, including Small Craft Advisories, Gale or Storm Warnings which alert mariners to either high winds or waves occurring now or forecast to occur up to 24 hours from now. Special Marine Warnings are issued for sudden increase in winds to over 35 knots (40 mph), waterspouts (tornadoes over water), and hail of 3/4 inches or greater and indicate a more immediate threat. Marine weather statements bring attention to significant rapidly changing conditions on the water including increase in winds, non severe thunderstorms, development of dense fog and even snow squalls or strong and gusty rain showers.
You should have a marine VHF transceiver with built-in NOAA Weather Radio channels. If you venture beyond about a 25 nautical mile range from shore, you should consider buying a good quality HF single sideband transceiver and satellite phone.
Before setting out, obtain the latest marine forecast and warning information from www.weather.gov/marine or NOAA Weather Radio. Several days ahead of time you can begin listening for extended outlooks which give general information out to the next five days in both graphical and text format.
The Cospas-Sarsat system is an international satellite-based search and rescue system used to locate emergency radio beacons transmitting on a frequency of 406 MHz. Since 1982, the Cospas-Sarsat system has been instrumental in the rescue of over 30,000 individuals worldwide and more than 6,700 individuals in the United States. Within the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the lead representative to the Cospas-Sarsat organization.
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons or EPIRBs are a type of emergency radio beacon developed for use in marine environments. Other types of emergency radio beacons such as Personal Locator Beacons or PLBs are available for different applications; however their effectiveness can be compromised when used in the marine environment. 406 MHz EPIRBs are divided into two categories. Category I EPIRBs are activated automatically or may be activated manually. Category II EPIRBs can only be activated manually. Either of these two types of EPIRBs may be equipped with GPS which will help rescue forces locate you more quickly. As proven by experience, an EPIRB often serves as the last line of defense when disaster strikes. All types of EPIRBs are becoming increasingly affordable and all mariners should investigate procuring one, especially those operating in harsh environments or offshore areas.
Once your purchase is made, make certain that you register your EPIRB which is mandatory. The information you provide on your registration may help rescue forces find you faster in an emergency. This information also allows Rescue Coordination Center personnel to determine if a distress alert is real or false and prevent the needless dispatch of rescue forces to locate a false alert. You may register online at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov. For any registration questions, please call 888-212-7283.
For more information on Cospas-Sarsat or EPIRBs visit: www.sarsat.noaa.gov
This boating season, make sure that you take advantage of the Vessel Safety Check (VSC), program – a free, no risk, service provided in your area by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and the US Power Squadrons. A qualified vessel examiner will conduct an inspection of all the required safety equipment carried or installed on a vessel and certain aspects of the vessel’s overall condition. Even if you pay careful attention to safety, dangerous mechanical problems can crop up on the best-maintained boat. That's why the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boats (including personal watercraft) get a free VSC each year.
A VSC is your best way of learning about conditions that might put you in violation of state or federal laws or, worse, create an unsafe condition for you or your passengers on the water.
Be prepared for any emergency when you are afloat. Get a free vessel safety check to ensure that your vessel complies with both Federal and State requirements. If the vessel meets all requirements, the examiner will award a Vessel Safety Check decal. If your vessel fails to receive a VSC decal, no law enforcement action is taken and the examiner will provide a list of items for correction.