National Safe Boating Week
May 19 - May 25
National Safe Boating Week is coordinated each year by the National Safe Boating Council and its boating safety partners across the U.S. and Canada. During the campaign, May 19 through 25, public safety professionals from around the state are increasing the emphasis on boating safety, especially life jacket wear, prior to the peak boating season.
The following safety tips are recommended for boaters so they can enjoy their adventures on the water.
Many recreational boaters in Washington are required to complete an approved boating safety education course and carry a Washington State Boater Education Card. All boaters are responsible for knowing the laws and keeping themselves and others safe. Even if carrying a card is not required, people should take a boating safety course to increase their knowledge of boating safety, emergency procedures and navigational rules. More information about boater education: www.boatered.org.
Always wear a life jacket
State law requires all vessels, including canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, to have at least one properly fitted Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person onboard. And all children, age 12 and younger are required to wear one at all times. Boaters are encouraged to wear their life jackets every time they go out on the water. Life jackets are now much more sophisticated and comfortable and tailored for specific water activities. More about life jackets: www.wearitwashington.org.
Bring communication devices
Boaters should carry two forms of communication that will work when wet, such as a whistle, waterproof cell phone or VHF marine radio. These devices greatly increase the chance of being located in an emergency. Also recommended are flares, a signal mirror and a whistle or air horn to aid emergency responders in search efforts. Boaters should also consider carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB), which instantly notifies responders of their location when activated. More on communications devices: http://bit.ly/boat_comm
Avoid alcohol and drugs
Boat owners and/or operators are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of everyone on board. Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including marijuana, is not only unsafe—it’s illegal. Boaters should always designate a sober skipper. Washington state’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law applies to all boats including kayaks, canoes, rowboats and inflatable fishing rafts. More about boating sober: www.boatsober.org.
Check and understand the weather
Boaters should check the weather frequently before and during their boating excursion, keeping an eye on current conditions and forecasts. Check warnings, weather conditions, wind and wave forecasts and tide and current conditions. It’s also important to understand how each of these elements affects a person’s ability to control their vessel. Boaters should heed any warnings, and avoid navigating in those areas. The National Weather Service (NOAA Weather Radio) broadcasts can be found on marine band and standalone weather radios. Learn more: http://bit.ly/boating_wx
Protect against cold-water shock
Falling into water under 60 degrees is dangerous, and many of Washington’s waters remain below 60 degrees all year—including lakes and rivers—even during hot weather. The biggest risk is not hypothermia, it’s cold-water shock, which occurs in the first stage of immersion. Boaters need to take caution and be prepared by always wearing a life jacket. Especially in boats under 21 feet, such as a kayak, rowboat or small fishing boat, which has a higher risk of capsizing. Learn more: www.coldwatersafety.org
Schedule a vessel safety check
Local marine law enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons have certified vessel examiners who will perform a free “vessel safety check”. These checks are conducted at a boat ramp, dockside or at other pre-determined locations and take 15 to 30 minutes. There is no charge and no consequences for not passing. They will provide a written report on how to correct any discrepancies. Boats passing the safety check receive a decal indicating the boat is in full compliance with federal and state boating laws. Learn more and schedule a vessel safety check by visiting www.cgaux.org/vsc/.
National Safe Boating Campaign – http://www.safeboatingcampaign.com/resources/
American Canoe Association – http://www.americancanoe.org/page/resources
Washington State Parks Boating Program – http://www.goboatingwa.com/