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Coast Guard urges mariners exercise caution as high winds forecasted


Contact:  Lt.j.g. Jeremy Pichette
cell (415) 748-0112
U.S. Coast Guard

October 6, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Coast Guard is urging mariners to exercise caution early next week as the National Weather Service has issued a Special Weather Statement for coastal and interior waters from the Big Sur Coast to the Coastal North Bay.

Tuesday and Tuesday night will experience the heaviest rainfall and strongest winds. Winds are forecasted to be steady 20 to 40 miles per hour with gusts up to 60 miles per hour with rain amounts ranging from 1 to 4 inches throughout the Bay Area and offshore.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends boaters avoid taking to the water Monday through Wednesday, until the winds and seas subside. The high winds can cause inexperienced mariners or those in smaller vessels to find themselves in dangerous situations. There should be a personal flotation device onboard for each person, sized accordingly. If boaters will be traveling offshore, it is strongly recommended that there be an immersion suit or other full-body protection, as water temperatures will be cold, and hypothermia can quickly overtake the average person.

If it is necessary to get underway mariners are urged to check that all of their safety equipment is in good condition.

All boaters should also ensure that they have a working marine VHF radio on board to contact the Coast Guard on channel 16 should an emergency arise. The Coast Guard reminds all mariners that channel 16 is an emergency frequency, and should be used for such. Misuse of channel 16 or broadcasting false distress calls can result in prison time, severe fines, and you could be liable for any costs incurred as a result of search efforts.

The Coast Guard also strongly recommends that all boaters file a float plan with a friend or family member on land, with an approximate time of return and location to which you will be heading. It is also recommended that you regularly check in with those who are aware of your plan, especially if your plan should change.

As the storm season for Northern California begins, the Coast Guard also encourages all boaters to check the status of mooring and anchor lines, and replace worn lines if necessary. During strong winds and heavy seas, vessels can come loose from the pier or anchor due to worn lines, or not having enough lines attached to the pier or having a heavy enough anchor.

Vessels adrift can become hazardous to nearby vessels as they are tossed about, and can become hazards to navigation once the storm has passed. These vessels can also pose environmental risk as any fluids or chemicals onboard can spill or leak should the vessel break apart.

Though the large waves can be an extreme sight to some, the Coast Guard, along with its partner state and local partners, urge people to not go near these areas if at all possible. The risk to life is too great during conditions such as these.

Mariners should check current and forecasted weather conditions prior to getting underway, and remain aware of changing conditions once on the water. The National Weather Service broadcasts weather conditions throughout the day on VHF channel WX2. The Coast Guard broadcasts weather conditions on VHF channel 22A at 9:30 a.m., noon, and 4:30 p.m.

For more information on boating safety and required and recommended safety equipment, please visit www.uscgboating.org.

For more information on weather conditions, please visit www.weather.gov.