The Coast Guard would like to remind recreational boaters of the risks associated with recreating in, on or around cold water this Fourth of July weekend. Despite warmer air temperatures, Pacific Northwest waters continue to remain in the 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit range. To prevent cold water shock or “swim failure” due to cold water immersion, wearing a life jacket increases your chances of surviving in the event of an emergency, vessel capsizing or if knocked unconscious.
The holiday weekend also marks the start of Operation Dry Water, which is a national awareness campaign providing increased law enforcement emphasis on stopping boaters who operate under the influence of alcohol and drugs. During the operation, Coast Guard members and local law enforcement throughout the Pacific Northwest will focus on detecting impaired boaters and educating the public about the dangers of boating under the influence.
To better prepare the boating community, U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and local marine law enforcement officials will be on patrol conducting safety checks on the water, focused on boaters who are operating their vessel in an unsafe manner or are operating their vessels while intoxicated. The Coast Guard may board any vessel, at any time to ensure the safety of those aboard, which take approximately 15 to 30 minutes. The Coast Guard will start with the approach to the vessel, where they will hail the master via VHF-FM marine-band radio, use their lights and approach the vessel or use a loud speaker to signify their intentions.
A Coast Guard boarding team will consist of two to four uniformed boarding officers, who will introduce themselves and state the reason for the boarding. They will then ask if there are any weapons on board and conduct an initial safety sweep to identify any obvious safety hazards and verify the general seaworthiness of the vessel. During the inspection, the boarding team will physically inspect the following required safety equipment:
Registration, sticker, documentation
Life Jackets (correct size for those on board and in working condition)
Visual distress signals, including flares (if required), and their expiration dates
Sound-producing devices such as whistles or air horns
Fire extinguishers, when required
Any other safety equipment required by law
When the boarding is complete the boarding officer will provide a copy of the Report of Boarding, noting any discrepancies. If there are discrepancies on board the vessel, the boarding officer will explain procedures to follow, these procedures will also be written on the reverse of the form provided. The Coast Guard provides a free Vessel Safety Check program for mariners who wish to make sure their vessels are in compliance. Log on to I Want a Vessel Safety Check! (uscgaux.info) qualified examiners will examine vessels for the required equipment and provide Vessel Safety Check decals for a successful check.
If a vessel does not pass, this provides an opportunity for mariners to remedy the problem before being stopped by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard and local marine agencies ask boaters to help be their eyes and ears on the water. Boaters who see suspicious activity should immediately call 911. Learn more at: https://www.uscgboating.org/