MIAMI — The Coast Guard is reminding boaters to practice safe boating and exercise caution during New Year’s Eve celebrations, and throughout the upcoming weekend.
Coast Guard crews throughout the Seventh Coast Guard District will be on duty New Year’s Eve to ensure everyone venturing out on the water has a safe holiday.
Anyone planning to celebrate New Year’s on a boat this weekend should follow these important safety tips:
Check the weather. The Coast Guard highly advises boaters check weather conditions before venturing out on the water. If weather conditions do not look favorable in the area, or at the destination, boaters should consider altering their plans until conditions improve. If in doubt, don’t go out!
Wear lifejackets. Boaters should ensure they have enough lifejackets for everyone aboard their boat, including children. The Coast Guard urges people to wear lifejackets whenever they're on the water. Lifejackets can greatly increase chances of survival at sea.
Have a VHF Radio. Boaters are urged to use VHF radios for their primary means of communication. Cell phones are recommended, but should only be used as a back-up emergency communication device. Cell phone signals can be weak and unreliable offshore.
Designate a sober boat operator. Boaters are reminded to have a designated boat operator aboard at all times. Never operate any vessel while under the influence of alcohol. In addition to the serious risk of injury or death, boating while intoxicated can have significant financial and legal consequences.
Purchase and register an EPIRB. Boaters are urged to purchase and register an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. An EPIRB is a device which, when activated, sends a distress signal to a satellite. This technology can help rescue crews pinpoint a person's exact location in the event of an emergency. A PLB, personal locator beacon, is also recommended. PLB’s function like EPIRB's, but are smaller and can be worn on clothes or a lifejacket. For more information on EPIRB's, visit: http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/emerbcns.html
Ask the captain. People who decide to celebrate aboard a commercial vessel should ensure that vessel's operator is licensed and the vessel has met the proper safety requirements. Whenever a passenger pays to be aboard a boat someone else is operating, the operator, or “captain”, is required by law to have a merchant mariner’s license. Ensure the operator, or “captain”, is properly licensed. They are also required to have their license readily available to produce upon request. If they’re operating a small passenger vessel, a certificate of inspection should be visually displayed. This includes captains using smart phone apps to provide boating services. Captains operating illegally are subject to civil penalties up to $35,000. For more information on passenger vessel requirements, and to verify any captain’s credentials, visit the National Maritime Center’s website at: http://www.uscg.mil/nmc/
Use flares only during emergencies. Signal flares are a vital piece of emergency gear for all boaters, and should be used only in distress situations. Flares should not be used for celebrations or non-emergencies. Boaters, or passengers aboard vessels, who accidentally launch a flare should notify the Coast Guard immediately to prevent the unnecessary deployment of Coast Guard boats, aircraft, and personnel.
Don’t hesitate to call for help. As always, the Coast Guard will be monitoring VHF Channel 16 for marine emergencies. If you feel you are in a distress situation, don’t hesitate to call for help. Boaters are also asked to notify the Coast Guard if their previously reported distress situation improves. This will reduce false alarms and ensure Coast Guard rescue crews are ready to respond to actual distress situations.
Hoax calls are costly and illegal. Boaters are reminded that placing a deliberate hoax distress call over the radio can have serious legal and financial consequences. Boaters planning to have children aboard their boat should teach them about responsible radio use. Parents can be held responsible for hoax calls placed by their children.
The Coast Guard wishes everyone a safe and happy new year.
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