Coast Guard issues safety measures

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 03/09/02)
By Ray Pendleton

Boating, like many other recreational activities, has some inherent risks involved in the pursuit of its pleasures.

Highly skilled sailors will attest to the fact that "boat bites" (small bruises, lacerations and abrasions) are very common after an afternoon of racing.

And many believe the reason a boat's boom is so named is for the sound it makes when it occasionally collides with a crew member's skull.

Likewise, those with power boats will confirm there are numerous hazards lurking aboard their vessels. Losing one's balance on a wave-tossed deck or getting stuck by a needle-sharp fish hook are good examples.

Nevertheless, boaters continue to find their form of recreation enjoyable and the Coast Guard -- with the job of establishing guidelines for boater safety -- usually suggests, rather than demands compliance with its safety standards.

Even when it has addressed recreational boat drownings -- which in 2000, amounted to nearly 75 percent of that year's 701 boating fatalities -- it has not required boaters to wear personal floatation devises (PFDs), even though doing so has been shown to save lives.

Boaters have only been advised to wear PFDs and to have them on their vessels for each person aboard. But, effective March 29 -- 20 days from now -- there will be a change.

Perhaps due to the fact that nationwide, 14 out of 28 preteen boating fatalities were attributed to drowning in 2000, the Coast Guard now stipulates that children under the age of 13 will be required to wear CG-approved PFDs while aboard recreational vessels.

That means all recreational boat owners planning to take preteens out sailing, fishing or whatever, must provide them with PFDs and make sure they wear them while they are aboard.

And not just any PFDs because, like kids, they come in several sizes and floatation characteristics, ranging from infant, to child, to youth, to adult. Adult PFDs are not made for small bodies.

THE COAST GUARD has also recently established several safety precautions for recreational boaters aimed at post-9/11 security issues as follows:

  • Make sure your boat is safe, meets all safety requirements and has had a current vessel safety check by the CG Auxiliary or US Power Squadron.

  • Always secure and lock your boat when not on board, even though you may be just visiting another boat or the marina office.

  • Always take the boat's keys with you.

  • When storing your boat, make sure it is secure and its engine(s) disabled. If it is on a trailer, make it as immovable as possible.

  • Do not stop or anchor beneath bridges or in channels. Be expected to be boarded by officials, if you do.

  • Observe and avoid all security zones.

  • Avoid commercial port operation areas, especially those that involve military, cruise line or petroleum facilities.

  • Do not approach military, cruise line or escorted commercial vessels. There is a 100-yard security zone around them and violators can face up to six years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

  • Report all suspicious activities to the Coast Guard or local authorities.

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