Boating tips for this holiday and the summer

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According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Divisions of Boating and Waterways, California had “503 recreational boating accidents, 232 injuries, and 49 fatalities.”

Sailboats1If you plan on taking to California’s waterways, be it the ocean or one of the many lakes, rivers and streams, the DBW suggests a few guidelines to live by:

  • Always wear appropriate life jackets. Seems self explanatory, but it doesn’t look cool to be blasting across the bay wearing those things. The U.S. Coast Guard says, “Drowning is the Number One cause of boating fatalities and the most preventable.” Cool is for TV and movies. Keep you and your passengers safe. The Coast Guard offers some timely tips about life jackets — and a lot of other boating information — in this PDF guide. Lifejackets begin on page 8.
  • Take a boating safety course, or a class ( at least) on how to operate your watercraft.
  • Familiarize your guests with the safety features of your watercraft, especially if they aren’t regular water craft users. If you’re using a power boat tell them about carbon monoxide fumes and keeping away from propellers, among other things.
  • Designate lookouts, or have people rotate the responsibility. There is a reason every military and commercial ship has lookouts, be it mechanical/electronic or human: there are hazards in the water, most especially other boaters.
  • Power BoatKeep a lookout for other, smaller craft, like kayaks, paddle boards as well as scuba flags. Those indicate there are divers nearby and need to be avoided.
  • Yield to larger, more powerful boats. Just because you think you have the right of way doesn’t make it so.
  • Keep seated as much as possible, especially if you are in a small craft. If you’re out on the ocean it doesn’t take a giant wave or boat wake to throw people off balance.
  • Load the boat properly, ensuring to stow items so they don’t become hazards on the deck. Also, stay at or below the boat’s capacity.
  • Power boaters should keep speeds down in crowded areas and on crowded waterways.
  • The data has shown that human-propelled boating, such as paddling, kayaking, canoeing, rafting and standup paddleboarding, is especially vulnerable to accidents.
  • Also: don’t pollute our waterways. The U.S. Coast Guard has rules about that in the PDF guide linked above. Go to page 32. We’ve seen the images of floating islands made up of discarded plastic and other garbage, not to mention marine life harmed by our trash.
    Finally: leave the alcohol at home. Drinking while operating a boat is a federal and state offense, which means you can be prosecuted by both government entities. A large number of boating accidents are attributed to alcohol consumption.
Be aware of the buoys and marine life.
Be aware of the buoys and marine life.

If you do have an accident, the Coast Guard has these regulations:

The operator or owner of any recreational boat is required to file a Boating Accident Report if the boat is involved in an accident that results in any of the following:

  • Loss of life
  • A person disappears from the vessel under circumstancesthat indicate death or injury
  • Personal injury that requires medical treatment beyondbasic first aid
  • Damage to the boat and other property damage of $2,000 or more
  • Complete loss of the boatBoat operators are required to report their accident to local authorities in the state where the accident occurredFatal Accidents

Immediate notification is required for fatal accidents If a person dies or goes missing as a result of a recreational boating accident, the nearest state boating authority must be notified without delay The following information must be provided:

  • PaddleboardsDate, time, and exact location of the accident
  • Name of each person who died or went missing
  • Number and name of the vessel
  • Name and address of the owner and operatorReporting TimelinesIf a person dies, goes missing from the boat, or receives injuries requiring medical treatment beyond basic first aid, a formal report must be filed within 48 hours of the accident
  • For accidents involving property damage of $2,000 or more, or the complete loss of a vessel, a formal report must be made within 10 days

Seems like a lot to worry about, but have some common sense when out there on the water and enjoy the 4th of July and the rest of the summer on your boats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and other personal watercraft.

All photos by Tim Forkes