Labor Day weekend boating safety tips

Boat Responsibly

Boating Safety

As the Labor Day weekend approaches and marks the end of the summer boating season, an increase in the number of recreational boating activities is anticipated.  Boaters need to take proper safety precautions and remain vigilant using these recommended safety tips:

Wear your life jacket! Statistics show that almost nine out of ten boating fatality victims did not wear their life jacket, and more than 80 percent of boaters who drowned, were not wearing their life jackets. In an emergency there might not be enough time to find a life jacket, so having a proper fitting life jacket in good condition, readily available, or wearing one at all times, may save lives.

Check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change rapidly, especially in the state of Alaska, so mariners planning on getting underway should keep a watchful eye on the forecast conditions. Forecasts can be checked by visiting the National Weather Service website at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/.

Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan states where you are going, how many people are aboard, vessel description, details of your destination(s) and what time you expect to arrive and return. If you are delayed for some reason, make sure you let someone know. An example of a float plan can be found here.

Boaters should have working communication equipment aboard their vessel. A VHF-FM radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and the inevitable dead battery.

Inspect your boat to avoid breakdowns that often lead to unexpected casualties or personal tragedies in the water. Schedule a free, no-fault vessel safety check, which can be conducted by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, before heading out on the water. The safety checks are courtesy examinations of your vessel, verifying the presence and condition of safety equipment required by state and federal regulations.

Remaining vigilant and understanding the hazards of boating under the influence of alcohol will also greatly contribute to a safe weekend on the water. Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. In the marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates this impairment.

“Boaters should prepare themselves for the unpredictable weather patterns in Alaska,” said Lieutenant Tom Pauser of the 17th Coast Guard District Prevention Division. “Be prepared to spend extra time anchored up or ashore if a storm blows in. File a float plan with friends or family and always carry a means of communication; preferably a marine type VHF radio. Always be sure to wear your lifejacket or keep it readily available and as a reminder, all those 13 years and under on a recreational boat within the State of Alaska must wear a lifejacket at all times when in an open boat or above decks on a cabin boat. Let’s make this a safe and enjoyable weekend for you and your passengers and boat safe!”

For many, the boating season is now gearing down and boaters should utilize the off-season to take a recreational boating safety course by visiting Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons websites. Additional course information is available through the BOAT/ U.S. Foundation at 1-800-336-BOAT.

For additional boating safety information, check online at:

Vessel Safety Checks

Coast Guard Boating Safety page

National Safe Boating Council

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