Coast Guard in Alaska observes National Safe Boating Week

ike Folkerts teaches boating safety

Mike Folkerts of the 17th District Office of Boating Safety discusses life jacket use with grade schoolers at Coast guard Station Juneau in Juneau, Alaska, May 16, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

On June 4, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established National Safe Boating Week as the first week starting on the first Sunday in June. In 1995, the date for National Safe Boating Week was changed to a full week before Memorial Day Weekend each year, allowing the message for safe boating to reach more boaters before the recreational boating season. The Coast Guard joins the rest of the nation and several other participating countries to remind boaters about the importance of preparedness and safety while traversing the world’s waterways.

The Coast Guard released its 2012 Recreational Boating Statistics, revealing that boating fatalities that year totaled 651 nationwide, the lowest number of boating fatalities on record. The report states alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in fatal accidents and almost 71 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, with 84 percent of those victims not wearing a life jacket. In Alaska, recreational boating deaths totaled 22 in 2012.

“Always wear a life jacket out on the water,” said Ken Lawrenson, the Coast Guard 17th District commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator in Juneau, Alaska. “Folks in Alaska know that full-body immersion in the water can be deadly. The simple act of wearing a life jacket can give you the time to be rescued or to rescue yourself. Most deaths are not due to loss of core temperature, but rather, people drown first.”

In Alaska children 13 years of age and younger are required by law to wear life jackets while on the water. Many Alaskan communities have Kid’s Don’t Float loaner life jacket boards and boxes with jackets than can be borrowed and returned after your voyage.


Having a registered EPIRB or PLB can save your life! This beacon made all the difference for the crew of the 52-foot Homer-based fishing vessel Bear, who were rescued and brought to Kodiak, Alaska, August 30, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.

Boaters are also encouraged to carry multiple forms of communication with them including a VHF-FM radio, an emergency position indicating radio beacon and at least one back up like a cellular phone, satellite phone or with extra batteries and/or the charger. File a float plan with friends or your local harbormaster detailing your voyage and providing a description of your boat and passengers to give rescuers as much information as possible in the event you are overdue. Float plans can help narrow search areas and reduce search times.

Boaters should look at the weather prior to their voyage and the extended forecast. Always take extra layers even if the weather appears nice and remember synthetic materials are preferable to cotton as they still provide some warmth even when wet and dry faster. Take provisions and gear in case you are caught out overnight or in poor weather. A modicum of preparedness can save you a great deal of discomfort and even your life!

To ensure you are ready for sea and have all the gear you need to weather the Alaskan outdoors get a free vessel safety check! The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free vessel safety checks in many Alaska cities and coastal towns as summer begins, and safety checks are available year-round by appointment. Many times, simple oversights such as old batteries in communications equipment or forgetting to check the weather make a difference in success of your voyage and the success of rescues if you do run into trouble.

“Making people aware about the hazards of boating especially after winter is very important,” said Auxiliarist Sue Lang, Coast Guard 17th District National Boating Safety Week chairperson. “Boating is such a way of life and big part of the history here in Alaska, it is important to remind boaters to be safe out there and not be complacent.”

In a region such as Alaska, where weather systems and climates can be volatile and treacherous to the boating community, National Safe Boating Week stands as a reminder to everyone who plies the waters to make sure they have everything necessary to ensure their trip is successful and they return safely home.
For more information about National Safe Boating Week, Coast Guard Auxiliary event schedules and Coast Guard NSBW activities, refer to the following links:

National Safe Boating Campaign:
Alaska Office of Boating Safety:
Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel Safety Checks:

You can also view safety tips and videos on our Facebook Page at USCGAlaska or follwo us on Twitter @USCGAlaska.

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