Maine Marine Patrol Urges Safety Heading into Recreational Boating Season
May 17 Open House to Showcase Boating Safety
May 17 to 23 is National Safe Boating Week, and the Maine Marine Patrol wants to remind recreational boaters to stay safe while enjoying Maine’s waters.
“This summer, thousands of boaters will spend time with friends and family on Maine’s coastal waters, rivers and lakes,” said Maine Marine Patrol Pilot Steve Ingram. “As we head into Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the boating season, we want to remind people about safe boating practices.”
In Maine, all children 10 and under must wear a life jacket. Adults don’t have to wear them but they must be available on board for every occupant. "Life jackets do save lives,” said Ingram. “If you end up in the water unconscious for some reason, a properly-fitting life jacket will keep you afloat, which is especially important this time of the year when the water is still very cold. Life jackets should be looked over to make sure they are serviceable and have no rips, tears, broken straps or snaps that could make them ineffective.
“Before your first day on the water, go over your vessel and make sure you have proper safety equipment on your boat,” said Ingram. “In addition to life jackets, safe boaters should have working navigation lights, visual distress signals, sound signalling devices, VHF radio, cell phone, proper ventilation, and properly displayed registration numbers. A thorough check of fire extinguishers and flares should be done to make sure they’re in working order.
“It’s also a good time to take a boating safety course,” said Ingram. “The US Power Squadrons, a non-profit, educational organization that offers classes in seamanship, navigation and related subjects, and the Coast Guard Auxiliary both offer excellent public boating courses.”
Boaters should also be sure to file a float plan with a friend or relative. “It’s important to let someone know where you are going and your approximate time of return,” said Ingram. “Always make sure you check the local marine forecast before heading out on Maine’s coastal waters.
Another important safety issue to consider is drinking and boating. According to the most recent Coast Guard statistics, alcohol was the leading contributing factor in deadly boating accidents.
“People should be aware that the Marine Patrol has zero tolerance for boating under the influence,” explained Ingram. “Alcohol use can be even more dangerous in a marine environment than on land. The motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind, and spray all accelerate and increase a drinker’s impairment. A boater becomes fatigued more quickly than a driver, which leads to a decline in the boater’s coordination, judgment, and reaction time, especially when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“Boaters under the influence are just like motorists under the influence – and we are going to prosecute those people who make the waters unsafe for the rest of us,” stated Ingram.
“The Marine Patrol will be working throughout the coming months to make sure boaters stay safe on Maine’s coastal waters.”
To kick off the week, the US Coast Guard and the Maine Marine Patrol, Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, and Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides & Instructors will be hosting an Open House and BoatSMART event on Saturday, May 17 at the Coast Guard Base in South Portland. The event will include tours of Coast Guard facilities and boats, tours of Marine Patrol vessels, boating safety seminars and displays, kayak rescue demonstrations, and demonstrations on the proper use flares. Bring your life jacket to join others around the globe attempting to set a world record for the most life jackets worn. Events and times are subject to change pending weather and operations. For information on the BoatSMART event, call 207-767-0383.
For more information on recreational boating safety, visit the Maine Department of Marine Resources website.