WATER WORLD - Seven common sense tips to recreational boating

  • In 2008, the Coast Guard counted 4,789 accidents that involved 709 deaths, 3,331 injuries and approximately $54 million dollars of damage to property resulting from recreational boating accidents. So before going out and during your stay on the water, take a deep breath at times and stop to think: "Am I being safe?"
  • Obtain a free vessel safety check, which can be conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, before heading out on the water. Vessel safety checks are courtesy examinations, verifying the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations. They even ensure the boat plug is in, so it doesn't sink.
  • Make certain to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change rapidly.
  • VHF-radio is the best method of communication while on the water. The Coast Guard monitors VHF channel 16. Find out what channel the nearest emergency services monitor. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable because of gaps in coverage area and dead batteries.
  • Careless or reckless operation is the largest cause of all boating accidents. So maintain a safe speed, proper distance from other boaters and follow navigational rules.
  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating mishaps, involved in nearly 20 percent of all boating-related deaths nationwide each year. So don't drink and boat. The heat and the movement of the vessel traveling over the choppy water make the effects of alcohol even worse.
  • Over two-thirds of all fatal boating accident victims drowned; and of those, 90 percent were not wearing a life jacket. In 2008, 63 percent of all child boating fatalities resulted from drowning. Wear life jackets at all times, and ensure they fit properly.
-- Lt. Anastacia Thorsson
U.S. Coast Guard