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USCG: Be smart about boat trips in Southeast Alaska

Posted: May 9, 2013 - 11:04pm

JUNEAU — Coast Guard Sector Juneau is emphasizing the importance of being prepares to safely enjoy the waters of Southeast Alaska in advance of spring boating season to enhance boater safety and prevent boating accidents.

Harbors all around Southeast are abuzz with both recreational and commercial boaters setting their boats in the water and getting them cleaned up for summer fishing expeditions and sightseeing. With more people on the water, the importance of being a safe boater increases. Unlike many other places in the United States our boating public shares many of the same waterways they travel with large cruise ships, ferries, cargo vessels and float planes daily.

The following are safety tips to ensure you and your vessel are ready for sea in the waters of Southeast:

Check the weather. Be sure to look at the immediate weather forecast as well as the extended forecast; weather can change in Alaska in a matter of hours. Be prepared for it. The National Weather Service offers local and statewide current and extended marine weather forecasts on their website and can be tuned into on VHF marine band radios.

Take multiple forms of communication devices and extra batteries or the charger. Always remember VHF-FM radio is the primary communications network for the maritime boating community. Also, consider a personal emergency beacon and if you have one ensure it is registered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Dress for the water temperature. Though the air may be warming up, the water is still cold and does not rise above low 50s even at the height of summer. Wet suits and dry suits offer protection against hypothermia in the event of immersion in the water.

Be sure to have Coast Guard approved life jackets aboard your vessel and wear them. All boaters and paddlers are encouraged to wear their lifejackets while underway. Alaska state law requires children 13 years of age and younger to wear a lifejacket while out on the water.

Check all required safety equipment to be sure it is in good working order. The Coast Guard Auxiliary provides free vessel safety exams. Contact your nearest flotilla for more information or visit the Alaska-based Coast Guard Auxiliary’s website.

File a float plan before you get underway detailing your trip to aid rescuers in the event you are overdue. Sample float plans can be found on the Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety website.

“The beautiful weather in and around Juneau can create a false sense of security,” said Cmdr. Marc Burd, chief of response, Coast Guard Sector Juneau. “The sky might be blue and the water calm, but that can all change in an instant as unforeseen hazards are around every corner in the waters of Alaska. Plan ahead and be aware of your surroundings.”

For more information on safe recreational boating please visit the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Resource Center by going online to http://www.uscgboating.org.

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