Surrounded by water as we are, many Ketchikan-area residents are involved in recreational boating.
Our small boat harbors — not to mention driveways, garages and side yards — are filled with an amazing variety of recreational watercraft. We enjoy being out on the water. And for good reason — this area has some of the best boating opportunities in the world.
Yet we also understand that boating safely requires knowledge, skill and preparation. As the summer boating season gets underway, it’s good to stop, think and plan ahead for safety on the water.
It helps that we’re in the middle of National Safe Boating Week.
“National Safe Boating Week is an important time to focus on safe boating practices," according to Michael Folkerts, who’s the recreational boating safety specialist for the 17th Coast Guard District here in Alaska.
One aspect of safe boating is having equipment that’s appropriate for Alaska waters and in proper working order. Entities like the Boat Owners Association of the United States and Alaska Office of Boating Safety can provide pre-departure checklists. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary can offer vessel safety checks and boater safety education courses.
Then there are the basic tips for staying safe on the water. These include:
• Wearing a life jacket. Here in Alaska, boaters must have one Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person aboard the vessel, and the life jackets must be in serviceable condition. Youth under 13 years old are required to wear a life jacket at all times when in an open boat or on the deck of a boat, according to the Coast Guard.
• Boating sober. Alcohol consumption continues to be the single-largest contributing factor in recreational boating fatalities.
• Checking the weather — looking at the immediate and extended forecasts. As we know, the weather here can change in a matter of hours, or even minutes.
• Taking multiple forms of communication devices, as well as and extra batteries and chargers. Coast Guard information notes that VHF-FM radio is the primary communications network for maritime boating. The agency also recommends personal emergency beacons, and ensuring that it is registered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In short, effort taken before heading out can help ensure that you can return, safe and sound.
Best wishes to everyone for an excellent — and very safe — boating season in 2021.