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Safe Boating During the Holidays

December 24, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - The Coast Guard and the California Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW) remind boaters to practice safe boating over the holidays. Equipping their vessels with proper safety equipment, being mindful of state boating laws and checking weather and wave conditions can decrease the chances of getting into a boating accident.

DBW reports that boating fatalities are more likely to occur during the winter than the summer season. Last year, over half of boating fatalities in California occurred between October and April.

Following the notes below will help all boaters have a safe winter holiday season.

  • Boaters should be aware that there will be safety zones around fireworks sites. The Coast Guard broadcasts these safety zones in the Broadcast Notice to Mariners on VHF channel 22A and can be found at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for USCG-2010-1079 and USCG-2010-1108.
  • There should be a life jacket on the vessel for each person, sized accordingly. Children under the age of 13, all personal watercraft riders, paddle-boarders, and anyone being towed behind a boat are required by law to wear a lifejacket.
  • It is strongly recommended boaters equip their vessels with immersion suits or other full-body protection, as water temperatures will be cold, and hypothermia can quickly overtake the average person.
  • In the event of an emergency, boaters should have the following in order to expedite a rescue:
    • Flares and an emergency position indicating radio beacon with 406 MHz capabilities.
    • An operational marine VHF radio on their boat. Due to the high mountainous areas throughout the region, boaters should not rely on their cell phones as a means of communication. The Coast Guard reminds radio operators that VHF channel 16 is an emergency channel and that improper transmission on channel 16 not only hampers Coast Guard response, but is punishable under federal law.
    • A GPS unit, or at a minimum, maintain knowledge of local waters and know their location at all times.
  • It is against the law for anyone to operate a vessel under the influence of alcohol. Consumption of alcohol by anyone else aboard is also strongly discouraged.
  • Boaters are strongly recommended to 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.
  • Mariners should check current and forecasted weather, and wave conditions prior to getting underway, and remain aware of changing conditions once on the water.
    • National Weather Service broadcasts weather conditions throughout the day on VHF channel WX2.
    • Coast Guard broadcasts weather conditions on VHF channel 22A at 9:30 a.m., noon, and 4:30 p.m.
    • DBW posts wave forecasts at www.dbw.ca.gov.
    • Current weather information and advisories: www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/zone/west/mtrmz.htm.

A vessel-safety inspection can ensure vessels are properly equipped with the recommended and required equipment. These inspections are complimentary and take only a couple of minutes. To book an appointment with a Coast Guard Auxiliary examiner, boaters can visit: www.vesselsafetycheck.org.

More complete information on safe boating may be found at www.uscgboating.org. Safe boating information may also be found at www.dbw.ca.gov, as well as wave forecasts and California boating laws.

The Coast Guard and DBW wish all boaters and their families to have a happy and safe winter holiday season!