The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is urging all boaters to use extra caution while boating during the upcoming July 4th holiday.
Independence Day, along with Memorial Day and Labor Day, typically account for more than one-third of all boating related accidents and fatalities. Seasoned mariners know July 4 brings out boaters with varying degrees of experience and it is critical to use caution and be prepared.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary suggests these five tips to keep in mind for safe boating:
- Make sure your boat is properly equipped and that required equipment is functioning properly: The 4th of July is sometimes the first and only time people venture out on the water after dark. Make sure your navigation lights work so you can be seen. Better yet, request a free Vessel Safety Check to make sure your boat has all the legally required and recommended equipment onboard.
- Be prepared for emergencies: Accidents happen quickly, often with little or no warning. Take the time to familiarize your crew and guests with basic emergency procedures and equipment, like man overboard modules, and show them how to contact authorities for help via marine radio or cell phone. If you boat in an area that requires flares, make sure they are up to date, but never use flares as a form of fireworks. Doing so constitutes a false distress call, which is a class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines, plus the cost associated with the false distress.
- File a Float Plan with a friend: A float plan for a boater is similar to a flight plan for a pilot. It lists who is going, where you're going, what the boat looks like, and when you expect to be back. Don't file this with the Coast Guard; rather, share it with a friend who will be staying ashore, and instruct them what to do in the event that they don't hear from you within a reasonable time of when you expect to return home. Visit http://floatplancentral.org/ for a complete plan along with instructions.
- Keep a sharp lookout for other boats, the weather, or anything that is unusual: The Coast Guard asks the public to be more aware of their surroundings, including carefully watching the weather, celebrating responsibly and understanding the hazards of boating under the influence of alcohol and misusing emergency flares as fireworks. Report any emergencies to local authorities.
- Practice the 3 Cs – caution, courtesy, and common sense.
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