The United States Coast Guard characterizes their Auxiliary corps as a “force multiplier,” enabling the active-duty and reserves corps to do more with the budgeted dollars allocated by the U.S. Congress. USCG Auxiliarists donate 100% of their time to the tasks authorized by the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. And no task is more important than promulgating and expanding the safety of life at sea. This column is about that.
The Ten Commandments
Well, that might be a bit of an overstatement (these are hardly divinely inspired) and an understatement (there are a lot more than ten things you can do to enhance safety for you and your crew). However, the numbers associated with these 10 steps that any skipper can do, or insist is done, are compelling.
#1. Thou Shalt Wear a Lifejacket. If 16 mariners go into the water without a lifejacket, only one comes out alive. Conversely, if they fall overboard with a lifejacket, 15 come out. Which cadre do you want to be in? Always have an adequate supply of lifejackets aboard. Make sure that children are wearing lifejackets that fit correctly. Federal and State law requires that they have one on. Only you, the skipper, can insure that it fits them properly.
#2. Never Shalt Thou Drink and Drive. Whether a car or a boat, it’s just plain crazy – and illegal – to drink and drive. Individual years vary but I have never seen alcohol account for less than 25% of boating accidents in a given year.
#3. Taketh a Boating Safety Course. Yes, something as simple as an 8-hour boating safety class can make all the difference. 70% of boating accidents involve skippers who have never taken a boating safety course. If you haven’t, start here: cgaux.org/boatinged/ or email me below and we’ll get you squared away.
#4. Safety Begins With Thou. Adults between the ages of 40 and 49 account for the highest rate of boating fatalities. You set the tone for safety for the entire crew and her passengers. Come on, Bunky, get that lifejacket on.
#5. Thou Shalt Know The Rules of Navigation. Can you imagine giving the keys to the family car to one of your children – and they have never opened the book of driving regulations, much less taken a course (see #3 above, Bunky.) You can get them online at the US Coast Guard’s Navigation Center (navcen.uscg.gov/).
#6. Thou Shalt Keep a Good Look-Out, While Driving Safely. You are required by law to always maintain a look-out. You are also required to use all available means to do so. Have radar? Turn it on, Skipper. Speed is another matter because, like driving a car, speed should always be reduced if visibility and/or weather demands it.
#7. Knoweth Thy Weather. Clearly, if you’ve ever left the dock under beautiful skies and then came home under heavy weather, you know how important is to know – before you go – what to expect during the course of your journey. Particularly for skippers of open boats, this can be all the difference, even between life and death.
#8. Haveth Thy Boat Meet Federal Standards. Can there be any an easier way to ensure that your boat meets USCG requirements than getting a FREE vessel safety check? This is not a regulatory event – if the boat is missing some requirement, the examiner is very likely to give you his or her cell phone number and the advice to, “fix this and then give me a call. I’ll come right down, complete the safety check and affix the safety sticker to your windshield.” Go to uscgaux.info/i_want_a_vsc/index.php, put in your zip code and a vessel examiner will contact you directly.
#9. Useth a Carbon Monoxide Detector. If you have an enclosed cabin, equip it with a (marine) carbon monoxide detector. Nothing else will protect you from the odorless, tasteless gas that can kill you and yours.
#10. Thou Shalt File a Float Plan. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that you always tell a friend or family member where you plan to go and when you’ll be back. Make it a habit before leaving on any boat trip.
If you are interested in being part of USCG Forces, email me at JoinUSCGAux@aol.com or go directly to the US Coast Guard Auxiliary “Flotilla Finder” at cgaux.org/units.php and we will help you “get in this thing.” ■
The Captain of the Port and Sector Commander for U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound is Captain Eva Van Camp Schang. CAPT Van Camp Schang is responsible for all active-duty, reservist and auxiliary Coast Guard personnel within the Sector. As a Commodore in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary First District, Southern Region, Vin Pica works closely with CAPT Van Camp Schang and her staff to promote boating safety in the waters between Connecticut, Long Island and 200 nautical miles offshore. Sector Long Island Sound Command Center can be reached 24 hours a day at 203-468-4401.
Editor’s note: Weekly updates for the waters from Eastport, ME to Shrewsbury, NJ including discrepancies in Aids to Navigation, chart corrections and waterway projects are listed in the USCG Local Notice to Mariners. Log onto navcen.uscg.gov, scroll to “Current Operational/Safety Information,” click on “Local Notice to Mariners” then “LNMs by CG District,” and click on “First District.”