SEATTLE — The Coast Guard urges boaters in the Pacific Northwest to use extra caution while on the water this Labor Day weekend.
Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of the traditional boating season and is usually a very busy few days on the water.
Coast Guard crews, along with local and state law enforcement agencies, will be patrolling, conducting safety checks, and watching for people boating while intoxicated or operating in an unsafe manner.
“Prior to getting underway, boaters need to ensure the proper safety equipment is onboard and they should check weather forecasts,” said Capt. Linda Sturgis, commander Sector Puget Sound. “Always wear your lifejacket and ensure your passengers do too. And never operate a vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
The Coast Guard will also be issuing ‘If Found/Contact’ decals to mariners. These stickers, when placed visibly on a kayak, paddle board, or dinghy, help searchers contact the owner in case the item goes adrift. They can potentially save countless hours of search efforts and resources.
Consider these safety tips for boaters before leaving the dock:
Never boat under the influence: It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are stringent penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws, which can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail time. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
File a float plan: Leave a detailed float plan with a friend or family member who is staying back on land. The sooner a party can be reported overdue, the more likely a positive outcome will result. Facts need to be quickly conveyed in an emergency. Your float plan should include information that rescue personnel need in order to find you. For examples of a float plan, visit www.floatplancentral.org.
Wear a life jacket: Life jackets save lives. In 2018, 77 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, approximately 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can leave even a strong swimmer injured, unconscious, or exhausted in the water.
Have a VHF-FM marine-band radio: Cell phones may lose signal off shore or run out of battery power. They are helpful but not reliable for notifying first responders of mariners in distress. Channel 16 is the channel used for emergencies that occur on waterways.
Monitor weather broadcasts: Watch for current storm advisories. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly. Forecasts can be heard by tuning in to channels 1 to 5 on a VHF marine radio or by checking the NWS website at www.weather.gov
Bring a signaling device: Have a portable device to communicate an emergency on the water. In addition to a marine-band radio, boaters should have signal flares or an emergency position-indicating radio beacon to alert first responders.
If you see something, say something: If you see someone in danger or someone you suspect may be boating under the influence, contact the Coast Guard on channel 16 or local first responders by calling 911.
Download the Coast Guard boating safety mobile app. Features included on the app are the latest safety regulations and navigation rules, as well as immediate access to filling a float plan, checking the weather, and reporting pollution hazards or suspicious activity.