National Safe Boating Week begins this weekend. The National Safe Boating Council and the National Weather Service have joined together to make sure all boaters are aware of dangers on the water.
It's an activity that thousands enjoy across Upper Michigan, but when not done safely, boating can have some serious consequences. The United States Coast Guard enforces safe boating at all times, but especially now that summer is approaching.
One of the first things every boater should do is put on a life jacket. There should be one for every passenger on board.
"Not just a life jacket... It needs to be Coast Guard approved. The zippers and fasteners need to work," said Brandon Liesen, Officer in Charge of the Coast Guard Station in Marquette.
Life jackets don't do any good if you're not wearing them. Per 33 CFR 175.15 (C), "Children under 13 must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket on all recreational vessels while underway unless below decks or in an enclosed cabin."
Boats owners and mariners are highly encouraged to get thier boats inspected annually by the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Coast Guard Auxiliary will be holding boat safety checks free to the public in Munising on May 19th, and in Marquette on May 25th.
"When you find things that are grossly wrong and they don't want to repair them. You just tell the mariner it's unsafe," said Mark Yankovich, Flotilla Commander for the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Marquette.
They'll check for other items in addition to life jackets, like fire extinguishers and emergency flares. It is also highly recommended that you have a VHF radio to communicate. The engine also needs to be in good working order, and the operators need to understand the garbage and dumping restrictions for their vessel. Making sure boaters follow the rules is a full time job for the Coast Guard.
Conduct is also very important on the water.
"Safe boating practice goes beyond the dock and making sure that your boat is properly equipped," said Liesen.
Remember to boat sober, remain vigilant of your surroundings, including buoys and swimming areas, and if the worst happens, remain calm.
"If you find yourself in the water and you find yourself on top of your boat, if it's capsized in a worst case scenario, the worst thing you can do is try to swim to shore, even if you think you can make it," advised Liesen.
When in any danger, always signal for help. The Coast Guard Station in Marquette can be contacted 24/7 at 906-226-3312 for emergencies, or any safety questions and concerns. They can also be reached on VHF radio channel 16.
For an online safe boating refresher course, visit www.uscgboating.org.