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National Safe Boating Week continues, Coast Guard urges caution while sharing waterways

May 19, 2015


The Coast Guard is urging boaters and operators of human-powered water crafts to use caution while sharing the waterways. This time-lapsed video highlights the concerns of increased usage on inland waterways.

Media Note: Coast Guard spokespersons in your area may be available to discuss the importance of safe boating for the duration of National Safe Boating Week. Please contact us at 630-986-2157 to check on availability. If there is no answer, wait for a voicemail with instruction to be forwarded to a 24/7 on-call duty public affairs specialist.

CHICAGO – As National Safe Boating Week continues, the Coast Guard reminds recreational boaters and those operating human-powered watercrafts, such as canoes, kayaks and paddle boards, to heed safety tips while sharing the waterways.

Recreational boaters and human-powered watercraft operators are not the only ones transiting waterways; inland rivers and tributaries, for example, are also used for commercial purposes by much larger vessels such as sightseeing tour boats, water taxis, and commercial tugs and barges.

When transiting or paddling inland waterways, people should follow navigation rules and take these precautions:

  • First and foremost, wear a life jacket at all times. Don’t just have them stowed below deck, under a seat or on the floor. Donning a life jacket when you’re in the water is very difficult, and at the point when you need it, it’s too late.
  • Don’t operate a vessel while intoxicated. Boating under the influence continues to be the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
  • Maintain safe speeds and observe "No Wake" zones to prevent capsizing smaller boats, canoes and kayaks.
  • Designate a lookout at all times.
  • Avoid shipping channels, and stay clear of ships, water taxis, and commercial tugs and barges. A pilot's blind spot can extend for hundreds of feet and their speed can be deceptive.
  • Get a vessel safety check to ensure your boat is operating properly and to limit the chance of your vessel developing problems in a channel, potentially in the path of a large commercial vessel.
  • Human-powered watercrafts should travel in single file and close to shore at all times.
  • Know the weather forecast before getting underway, and maintain awareness of changing conditions at all times. Don’t get caught on the water during a storm. High winds can kick up the surf and create large waves capable of capsizing small vessels and crafts.
  • Carry a waterproof, marine band radio for emergencies. A cell phone will become inoperable if it gets wet.

Water enthusiasts should take note that undercurrents from the engines of large vessels can create dangerous turbulence for smaller vessels. Also, storm drains and runoff chutes from land can push unsuspecting kayakers or canoeists into the middle of the waterway and into the path of much larger vessels.

Commercial traffic such as tugs and barges operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, which makes it even more dangerous to be operating smaller crafts at night. If common sense and safety precautions are not used, a venture out onto the water for pleasure and recreation can turn deadly.

The early morning hours of June 21, 2014, highlight the dangers of boating on an inland waterways. Three people were killed when their small pleasure craft collided with a barge being pushed by a towing vessel on the Cal Sag channel southwest of Chicago. Neither of the passengers was wearing a life jacket, and all were under the influence of alcohol.

In this time-lapsed Youtube video, the viewer can see firsthand the diverse usage of an inland waterway and how dangerous it can be, accentuated by the activity shown at the 3:35 mark. 

"Recreational boaters and human-powered watercraft operators must realize that when they take to the water there comes responsibility," said Mike Baron the Coast Guard’s 9th District recreational boating and water safety program manager. "They should operate safely and be aware of their surroundings. Operator inattention was the number one contributing factor in all recreational boating accidents last year."

The Coast Guard released a new smartphone app for boaters, called United States Coast Guard, Saturday. As the nation's recreational boating safety coordinator, the Coast Guard works to minimize loss of life, personal injury, property damage, and environmental harm. The Coast Guard's boating safety program involves public education programs, regulation of boat design and construction, approval of boating safety equipment, and vessel safety checks for compliance with federal and state safety requirements. The Coast Guard mobile app supports these missions by providing the essential services and information most commonly requested by boaters.






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