Avoiding Preventable Boating Issues

Thursday, August 10, 2017

By Robert Yslas, Jr., MS, AUXPA1

At the most unpredictable moment, your leisure and fun-filled day in the water can turn into a life-threatening situation.  According to U.S. Coast Guard boating statistics, hundreds of lives are lost and thousands injured due to accidents that are 70% avoidable. Additionally, millions of dollars of property damage are caused by preventable water-way mishaps. Those misfortunes can have a different outcome when you, the boater, passenger, or concerned individual takes a few moments to first consider boating safety.

As a boat owner or passenger request a free Vessel Safety Check at http://wow.uscgaux.info/content.php?unit=V-DEPT&category=i-want-a-vsc.



Figure 1 USCG Auxiliarist assisting a boater with a vessel safety check

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron work together to provide certified vessel examiners who, for no charge, will conduct a safety check of your vessel, to include all types of personal watercraft. Our main goal is to help provide a safe boating experience for you, your passengers, and the public by providing on the spot education. This is also your opportunity to ask questions about boating safety and what equipment you should have on board in the event of an emergency. Our vessel examiners are more than happy to assist you.


We will ask if you have taken or need to take a boating safety course during a vessel safety check. The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers a 4-8 week Boating Skills and Seamanship course offered to the public for a minimal fee.

Figure 2 Check online for a boating safety course near you offered by the USCG Auxiliary

Some flotillas offer this course in the fall or spring since the summer is typically focused on enjoying family

boating. This course is a comprehensive experience designed for the novice and experienced boater who is interested in furthering their knowledge about boating and all its nuances. The course provides information on child safety, life jackets, survival skills, boat handing and consideration for the type of boat desired.


Tragically, many lives have been lost because the individual did not wear a life jacket. Life jackets are designed to help keep your head out of the water, with some having the ability to turn the wearer face-up to maintain breathing.  The Coast Guard requires that each boat should have an approved life jacket for each person onboard.  Additionally, boats 16 feet and over should have a Type IV throwable device. Verify what type of life jacket you want and need for your water-related activities and then insist that your passengers to know and use life jackets when onboard your vessel or watercraft.  Please ask questions about child-sized life jackets and know your state regulations regarding their usage when you’re out on the water.

Finally, I encourage you to file a float plan. Only file a float plan with your family or friends if you want to be found after a boating emergency. Do you want to be found after a three hour cruise that has gone bad? Consider that when you’re planning a boating trip that you have a lot of things to do prior to setting sail. What happens if you have an emergency out on the water and your radio fails? Without a float plan, your friends and family have no idea where you are nor even if you are on the water but late on return. Providing someone with a brief outline of where you are going, planned stops, and arrival and departure times can help with initiating a coordinated rescue if the need arises. While formal forms are available, simply writing out your planned activities and route is enough to help if you find yourself in trouble and out of contact.  Remember: boating safety is your responsibility and taking time to learn about how to be safe out in the water can mean the difference between having a great time and enduring the stress of an emergency at sea.


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