Boats cruise through Saratoga Passage in 2018.

Many boaters ply the waters in the Stanwood and Camano Island area. The U.S. Coast Guard has reported nearly 4,300 recreational boating accidents happened in 2017, which resulted in more than 650 deaths. That’s why wants to remind boaters of 10 vital safety tips for more enjoyable recreational boating.

Fourth of July tips

1. Fireworks on boats are a bad idea

It may seem obvious but lighting fireworks on boats is never a good idea. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that, on average, 280 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries around the July 4th holiday. In 2017, they also reported eight deaths related to fireworks. Watch professional fireworks from your boat instead. 

2. Gear up for emergencies

There’s no way to predict when an emergency will happen — so it’s critical for every captain to have essential gear, like flashlights, batteries, ropes, duct tape, a waterproof whistle and a well-stocked first aid kit available at all times. It just might save a life.

3.  Check the weather app

There are few surer ways to end up in hot water (ahem) while boating than to ignore weather forecasts. Also pay close attention to sudden changes in wind and water conditions. 

4. Jackets required

A properly-fitted life jacket is crucial. Not only does it serve as a floatation device in an emergency, it’s also designed to keep an unconscious person face up, which may prevent drowning and even hypothermia. 

5. Create a pre-departure checklist 

Review a checklist before every trip to make sure you’ve not overlooked some important safe boating tools. 

6. Get an official safety check

Make sure your vessel’s in shape for summer. The Coast Guard and the U.S. Power Squadrons offer free vessel safety checks with no consequences for failing. The check just might identify an issue you didn’t know existed.

7. Engine should pass the sniff test

After refueling, open all the hatches and smell for fumes. Carbon monoxide can easily accumulate in enclosed spaces, blocked exhaust outlets and other spots — creating a major safety hazard.

8. Make a float plan

Leave a float plan with someone on shore. That way, in case of emergency, they’ll know something has gone wrong. Include the names of all persons on board, boat type, itinerary, types of communication options, and the time you expect to return. 

9. Invest in a life jacket light

If you fall in the water, a light will automatically come on and help people find you should the current move you away from the boat. It will also warn any nearby boats if you are not visible. These lights are very affordable and easy to buy online.

10. Don’t overload the boat

Be careful about adding extra passengers, coolers and gear, especially with small vessels that are more prone to swamping. Keep everyone in the boat and avoid allowing passengers to ride with legs over the side or on gunnels and seat backs.

What to do when accidents happen

1. Make sure everyone is safe

Then call for help immediately if you or someone else requires medical attention. Specify exactly where you are and what you need. 

2. Report the accident

Reporting an accident to the Coast Guard is similar to reporting a traffic accident to the police and is generally required by law. An official statement can help document accident details and how they occurred.

3. Document the accident

Take photos. Capturing things like injuries, boat damage and the condition of the water will help you with respect to liability and insurance issues. 

4. Notify your insurance company 

If there’s property damage, take this step whether or not the accident was your fault.

5. Stay calm

Any accident can trigger intense stress but it’s important to keep your calm so that you can think more clearly and make important decisions.

Operation Dry Water 

Boaters can help keep everyone safe on the water by not consuming alcohol or marijuana while operating a boat or paddlecraft – anytime.

Law enforcement and Washington State Parks Boating Program will focus on boating-under-the-influence awareness and enforcement with Operation Dry Water during the Independence Day holiday. 

Federal, state and local marine law enforcement will increase patrols across Washington July 5-7 as they intensify efforts to detect and remove dangerous and impaired boaters from the waterways.

In Washington state, it is illegal to use any substance that impairs a person’s ability to operate a boat. The law applies to all boats, including kayaks, canoes, rowboats and inflatable fishing rafts. State law allows law enforcement officers to require suspected intoxicated boaters to submit to a breath or blood test. Refusing to submit to a test is a civil infraction with a maximum fine of $2,050. 

The penalty for operating a boat under the influence is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and 364 days in jail. Additionally, a BUI is considered a prior offense if there are later convictions for driving under the influence (DUI). 

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