WILMINGTON, N.C. — With Memorial Day weekend considered the unofficial start of summer — and recreational boating season — the U.S. Coast Guard is celebrating National Safe Boating Week May 21-27.
More boaters on the water means an increased likelihood for search and rescue situations, mechanical failures and accidents, so the Coast Guard reminds boaters to always wear a life jacket while underway and use an engine cut-off switch when installed.
“Boaters should always wear a life jacket on any vessel while underway,” said Lt. Josh Gilbert, command center chief for Coast Guard Sector North Carolina. “It is also encouraged to have life jackets on children under the age of 13 while swimming or during other activities on open water.”
The Coast Guard notes in 2021, 80% of boating deaths were due to drowning and 86% of those victims were not wearing a life jacket.
“In addition to life jackets, an engine cut-off switch should always be used on any personal watercraft with a motor,” said Gilbert. “This may be a cord lanyard that is attached to the operator’s wrist or life jacket, or a wireless switch that includes a wristband or visible fob for the boat operator and/or passengers. An engine cut-off switch will immediately stop the boat’s engine should the operator fall overboard.”
As of April 1, 2021, federal law requires the operator of a boat with an installed Engine Cut-Off Switch (ECOS) to use the ECOS link.
Additionally, the Coast Guard recommends:
- Locator beacons can help us find you faster. Attaching a functioning Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) to your boat, or a Personal EPIRB (PPIRB), also known as a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), to your life jacket, and knowing how to use them can help rescuers find and help you.
- Use a marine VHF radio. A cell phone may go out of range or run out of battery power when you need it the most. Make sure you familiarize yourself with how to use and properly maintain your radio.
- Never operate a boat under the influence. People operating vessels under the influence of alcohol, drugs or impairing medication pose a serious threat to you and anyone else aboard.
- Get a vessel safety check. The Coast Guard Auxiliary provides free boating safety checks. Get a free safety inspection from the Coast Guard Auxiliary to make sure you have all the gear and safety equipment required by your state and federal laws. Click here to find one near you.
- Take a boating safety course. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is one of many organizations that offer valuable boating safety courses ranging from electronic navigation to boat handling. Click here to register for a boating safety course.
- Know your navigation rules. Know how to properly navigate waterways and maintain lookouts to keep yourself and everyone else around you safe.
- File a float plan. Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Float plans provide a starting point to help find you if something happens.
- Check out the Coast Guard Boating Safety app. You can file a float plan, request assistance, request a vessel safety check, and report pollution and hazards to navigation.
- Look at the weather and tides before you head out. It might look like a nice day, but squalls and shifting tides can change suddenly.
- Dress for the water, not for the weather. Check water temperatures before you go out and dress accordingly.