Summer fun is synonymous with safety during National Safe Boating Week. As Memorial Day weekend signals the beginning of a busy recreational boating season, the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary provide training and inspection of boats big and small.
The National Safe Boating Council in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has designated May 22-27 as the annual National Safe Boating Week (NSBW).
“One of the best things that we do as Auxiliarists, is provide an opportunity to help educate the boating public, with it being a boating safety class, a vessel safety check, or while out on patrol,” said Steven White, Branch Chief of Information Outreach for Emergency Management in the Public Affairs Detachment in New York City. “Working in conjunction with many areas of the Coast Guard, the Auxiliary unit is raising awareness by providing virtual education classes, direct messages on social media platforms, vessel safety checks, building relationships with key community partners and local first responders.”
Boat sales skyrocketed last year during the coronavirus pandemic as more Americans turned to the boating lifestyle amid more outdoor recreation opportunities coupled with more flexible work environments. New boaters pulling up to the pier should spend a few minutes considering what it takes to have a safe, fun boating season.
In order to enjoy a day on the water and avoid a tragic accident, the Coast Guard Auxiliary hosts opportunities with Coast Guard active-duty members to emphasize the importance of safe boating practices. Boating Safety Week resources include:
- Learn how to choose the best life jacket for each boating activity and ensure a proper fit.
- Provide vessel safety checks for every kind of personal watercraft, from sailboats, and motorboats, to kayaks and paddleboards.
- Provide situational awareness training, and how to maintain proper safety tools and kits on board the vessel to ensure everyone’s safety.
Boating Safety Week has close ties with the Coast Guard Auxiliary program dating back to 1949. Auxiliarist Steve Sadowski organized the first courtesy marine examination - now termed vessel safety check - weekend.
“It is integral to understand that all boats have different requirements and making sure you have what you need before you hit the water is very important and could save you and those with you,” said White. He cautioned novice paddleboard and kayak boaters, “Paddlecraft has been a major issue with its increasing popularity, especially with the amount of missing paddlecrafts that have been found without the owners. This adds costs to the Coast Guard and other local law enforcement agencies countless amounts of money,” referring to the search and rescue efforts that occur when a kayak comes untied from a dock.
“The majority of deaths have come from paddlecrafts are the result of not wearing personal flotation device,” added White.
In addition to wearing a Coast Guard-approved life jacket USCG approved life jacket that fits properly, paddlecraft boaters are encouraged to use a “paddle smart” sticker, provided by your local Auxiliary flotilla. Kayaks drifting without a paddler can trigger a search and rescue case. With a sticker, the owners can be contacted more immediately to verify whether the kayak is lost.
One of the best things the Auxiliary offers when it comes to boating safety and teaching in the area, is the vast years of local knowledge of the surrounding water area. The Auxiliary offers a variety of options to help educate the boating public, covering topics like the basic waterway etiquette, how to handle different watercraft in different conditions, and how the weather has a huge impact on your boating experience.
“There are some aspects that make the Auxiliary different from active duty,” added White. “We aren't split into different units, or jobs. Most of the individuals in the Auxiliary are doing multiple jobs, from instructing, operations, program visitors, public affairs, vessel examiners, and so much more.”
According to the Coast Guard Office for Prevention Policy, the two most important things you can do are to wear a life jacket and undergo a vessel safety check. Boaters can request a free vessel safety check through the Coast Guard Auxiliary website, which allows you to get a complete comprehensive exam of your vessel before it goes out on the water. The inspection looks for potential mechanical and equipment issues. To schedule a safety check, visit the Coast Guard Auxiliary website.
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