Coast Guard urges boater safety

With almost 25,000 boats using Hawaiian waters, the U.S. Coast Guard urges boaters to be safe and take special care while on the water during this busy holiday weekend, a press release states.

The Coast Guard estimates that there are more than 11,100 recreational boats and more than 13,200 commercial boats in the state of Hawai‘i.

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional beginning of the summer recreational boating season and is the perfect time to ensure safety equipment is updated and in good condition. Recreational boaters can contact the Coast Guard Auxiliary for a free, no-ticket courtesy vessel exam for their boats. During the inspection the Coast Guard Auxiliary will discuss with the boat owner what is required and how to use the safety equipment, USCG release states.

Coast Guard units will be on patrol this weekend and will be conducting random safety boardings. Along with proper safety equipment, boarding teams are emphasizing the importance of not consuming alcohol while boating.

Alcohol can prove even more hazardous on the water than on land, the release states. The marine environment includes motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray, all of which accelerate a boat operator’s impairment. For recreational boat operators in Hawai‘i the legal blood alcohol level is .08. Just like driving a car while intoxicated, violators caught operating a boat above the legal limit can be prosecuted with large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and even jail time, the release states.

The Coast Guard also stresses the importance of having proper safety equipment on board. Since 2002, children under the age of 13 are required to wear Coast Guard approved life jackets while on board recreational underway vessels, except when they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin, with possible penalties of up to $1,100 fine for each violation.

Carbon monoxide related illnesses, injuries and fatalities on the water accounted for three deaths in 2004, the release states. Not only can carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas, accumulate outside engine compartments, it can also accumulate in outside boat spaces such as engine and generator exhaust outlets, under swim platforms and even in open cabins. The Coast Guard advises boat operators and passengers to turn off gasoline powered generators with transom exhaust ports when the swim platform on the stern is in use. Early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness that can easily be confused with seasickness.

For more information on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org or schedule a free vessel safety check with the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

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