MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — It’s Labor Day weekend and the weather forecast looks pretty nice so that means plenty of South Floridians will be jumping on their boats this weekend which is why the U.S. Coast Guard is urging boaters to be careful on the water.
Coast Guard law enforcement crews will patrol the waterways over the long holiday weekend, conducting safety checks and watching for boaters who are intoxicated.
Officials also warn boaters to monitor weather broadcasts. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly. The forecasts can be heard on Channels 1 through 5 on a VHF marine radio, or by checking the weather service’s website at http://www.nws.noaa.gov.
The Coast Guard offers safety tips for anyone spending time on the water.
Boaters should always wear a life jacket. In 2012, 71 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, the Coast Guard says almost 85 percent were reported as ‘not wearing a life jacket.’
Officials also advise boaters to have a VHF-FM marine radio on board because cell phones often use signal and their batteries run out.
Before leaving the dock, boaters should also do several things.
File a float plan. When an emergency happens, there are so many things to remember. And without a float plan, boaters are counting on someone else — a friend, spouse, neighbor or friend — to remember the detailed information that rescue crews will need to find the boat.
And have a safety inspection done on the vessel to learn about possible violations of state or federal laws.
Officials say it’s a good idea to take a boating safety course to learn the basics of the vessel and the “rules of the road” in the American’s Boating Course. That’s a new electronic boating course produced through a partnership between the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons. Information can be found at www.americasboatingcourse.com .
Coast Guard officials say it’s never wise to operate a boat while under the influence. Intoxicated boaters can face both state and federal charges with penalties of up to one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
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