Coast Guard patrols often encounter abandoned and adrift boats and gear. If there’s even a small chance a person could be in the water, the Coast Guard undertakes search and rescue efforts. If you find yourself in trouble, here are five ways you can increase the chances search and rescue will get to you in time.
1. Wear a lifejacket: A Coast Guard-approved lifejacket is the single most important factor in surviving a boating accident. This applies to any water sport from kayaking to sailing. Wear it; don’t stow it.
2. File a float plan: Make a habit of filling out a float plan and leaving it with a friend, relative or someone at the marina to inform others about your boat, who is on board, where you are headed and when you plan to return. If you don’t return, rescuers will have a better idea of where to search.
3. Mark your gear: Write an address and phone number with indelible ink on paddles, sails, and canoe and kayak hulls. If these items are found adrift, Coast Guard officers can call to see if they were lost or if someone is in trouble.
4. Bring safety equipment: Flares, a sound-producing device, signaling mirror, and cell phone can help you summon help if you find yourself in trouble. Check the Navigation Rules to make sure you have required safety equipment on board. When boating offshore, carry a marine band VHF-FM radio and an electronic position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) so rescuers can find you.
5. Know what you’re doing: Don’t put your new vessel on the water until you’ve learned how to operate it safely and avoid dangerous situations. Many boating organizations offer low to no cost boating courses, including the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons. Available online, on CD-ROM and in the classroom, these courses can bring you up to speed on emergency procedures and required safety equipment.
The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to “Boat Responsibly!” For more tips on boating safety, visit uscgboating.org.