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Coast Guard has busy weekend, reminds boaters to have proper safety equipment

March 16, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. —The Coast Guard wants to remind mariners to have the proper safety equipment aboard their boats after a busy weekend in the Tampa Bay area.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg responded to 12 search and rescue calls over the weekend. The majority of the boaters did not have the proper safety equipment aboard their boats.

"It is imperative people do not leave the dock without having proper safety equipment aboard their vessel including a VHF-FM radio, life jackets and flares,” said Lt. Sullivan, a search and rescue coordinator at the sector. “These tools save lives.”

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg, Air Station Clearwater, Florida, Station Cortez, Florida, and Station Fort Myers Beach, Florida, saved 11 lives, and assisted 12 people since Friday.

"There were a variety of search and rescue calls this weekend,” said Sullivan. “You cannot help a boat malfunction, but you can ensure you have the appropriate resources to deal with situations on the water, starting with a working VHF-FM marine radio.”

A VHF-FM marine radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and the inevitable dead battery.

Below are more safety tips mariners should review before heading out on the water.

  • Inspect your boat to avoid breakdowns that often lead to tragedy in the water. Obtain a free, no-fault vessel safety check, which can be conducted by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, before heading out on the water. The safety checks are courtesy examinations of your vessel, verifying the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations.
  • Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan states where you are going and how many people are aboard your vessel. It also gives a vessel description, details your destination and what time you expect to arrive there. If you are delayed for some reason, make sure you let someone know.
  • Wear your life jacket! More than 80 percent of boaters who drown were not wearing their life jackets. In an emergency there might not be enough time to put one on, so wearing one at all times may save your life.
  • Don’t drink and boat! The federal BAC limit is .08 for a BUI. Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time.
  • Have working communication equipment aboard your vessel.

“Safety on the water is our number one priority,” said Sullivan. “However, safety starts with the boater before they leave the dock.”