KODIAK, Alaska — In recognition of National Safe Boating Week 2023, May 22-28, the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary across Alaska are encouraging and promoting safe boating practices to protect lives on the water.
The National Safe Boating Week campaign is a public outreach effort held annually during the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend. This year marks the 52nd anniversary of the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971.
The campaign is designed to help reduce boating fatalities and accidents by generating awareness on the waterways in The Last Frontier.
“Most incidents occur in benign conditions, calm waters, light wind, and good visibility, under which you may least expect to end up in the water, which is why it is critical to wear a life jacket and engine cut-off switch at all times as they are designed to save your life,” said Capt. Troy Glendye, Chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety. "The Coast Guard reminds boaters to ensure life jackets are serviceable, properly sized, correctly fastened, and suitable for your activity."
There were 636 boating fatalities nationwide in 2022, a 3.3 percent decrease from the 658 deaths in 2021.
Here are some boating safety tips to keep you safe on the water:
- Check the weather. Be sure to look at the immediate weather forecast as well as the extended forecast; weather can change in Alaska in a matter of hours. Be prepared for it. The National Weather Service offers local and statewide current and extended marine weather forecasts on their website, which are broadcast on VHF marine-band radios.
- Take multiple forms of communication devices and extra batteries and chargers. Always remember, VHF-FM radio is the primary communications network for the maritime boating community. Enabling the Digital Selective Calling features on your VHF-FM marine radio can broadcast your location and information to every boat within range in an emergency. Also consider a personal emergency beacon, and ensure it is registered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/beacon.html.
- Wear a life jacket; they save lives. In Alaska, boaters are required to have one Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person aboard their vessel, and they must be in serviceable condition. Persons under 13 years old are required by law to wear a life jacket at all times when in an open boat, on the deck of a boat, or when waterskiing.
- Check all required safety equipment to be sure it is in good working order. Vessel safety checks by the CoastGuard Auxiliary are free. Trained examiners help boaters review their equipment and give advice about how to improve safety.
- Wear your engine cut off switch link. A law went into effect on April 1, 2021, requiring recreational boats to use an engine cut-off switch (ECOS) and associated ECOS link (ECOSL). An ECOS is an emergency ignition cut-off device that shuts down the engine if the operator is ejected from the vessel or falls overboard. This law applies to any boats less than 26 feet in length that generate more than 115 pounds of static thrust (approximately 3 horsepower) and were built beginning in January 2020.
- File a Float plan and leave it with somebody you trust. It should include when you are leaving, where you will be, how long you will be gone and when you plan to return.
- Boat sober! Abstain from using alcohol while underway. Alcohol consumption remains the single-greatest contributing factor in recreational boating fatalities.
- Educate yourself through knowledge and skills-based training. The Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Safety Education courses offer both virtual and in person education classes.
To sign up for Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Safety Education courses visit: http://cgaux.org/boatinged/
To find out more about Vessel Safety Checks visit: http://www.cgaux.org/vsc/ or http://www.safetyseal.net/.
Additional information on boating safety and resources can be found at www.safeboatingcampaign.com.
The Coast Guard Float Plan document can be found here: https://floatplancentral.cgaux.org/#:~:text=Whether%20you%20are%20a%20power,or%20check%2Din%20as%20planned.
For more information about the Coast Guard's 2022 recreational boating statistics click here: https://www.news.uscg.mil/Press-Releases/Article/3398506/coast-guard-releases-summary-of-2022-recreational-boating-statistics/
For more information about the Coast Guard 17th District's recreational boating safety or Kids Don't Float programs, please contact Mr. Mike Folkerts at: 907 463-2297.