Safety should be a priority when boating

Published on Wed, May 7, 2014 by Andy Peterson, Blaine Harbormaster

Read More News

The traditional boating season in the Pacific Northwest has arrived, and we boaters are anxiously preparing our boats and watching the weather reports for the first window of opportunity to get out on the water and enjoy some of the best boating in Washington state. As we prepare our boats for the upcoming summer, now is the time to take a hard look at your safety equipment and vessel maintenance to ensure you are fully equipped and prepared. Taking care of issues now is much easier than the night before you want to go boating.

If you are a new boater, before planning your boating adventure, make time to complete the requirements to earn your Washington state boater education card. According to the Washington State Boaters Guide, available at the Blaine Harbor Office or online at boat-ed.com/washington/handbook/  boaters born after December 31, 1954 who operate a personal watercraft or powered watercraft of 15 horsepower or more are required to get a boater education card and have it aboard the vessel with them and available for inspection by a law enforcement officer. To get the card you can visit the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office website at boated.com/washington/boatingcard.html

There are plenty of opportunities to brush up on your boating skills and share your hard-won boating experience with others by participating in boating education classes and activities. Two groups that offer courses and activities in our local area are the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary (cgaux.org) and the United States Power Squadrons (boatingisfun.org). Volunteers with countless hours of practical hands-on boating experience who are willing to share with other boaters staff both of these groups. Check their websites for upcoming boating courses and volunteer opportunities. Both groups also offer courtesy vessel examinations to ensure your vessel is compliant with safety regulations and required equipment, including life jackets.

Life jackets, also known as PFDs (personal floatation devices) have progressed a long way from the old orange canvas kapok filled tubes that wrapped around your neck and tied behind your back. 

There are many choices available today, with styles ranging from comfortable vests to hardly noticeable inflatable harnesses. All PFDs must be U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved, in good and serviceable condition, of the proper size for the intended wearer and readily accessible, or better yet, always worn. 

Remember that children 12 years old and younger must wear a USCG-approved life jacket at all times when underway in a vessel less than 19 feet in length. The Blaine Harbor Office participates in the Boat US Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program for children. A limited number of life jackets for infants, children and young teens can be borrowed by filling out a simple form. We ask only that the borrowed lifejackets are returned as soon as possible for the next borrower.

This article is just one of the first steps towards preparing yourself, family and friends for a safe adventure on the water. The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office offers a great resource for boaters. You’ll find plenty of information and links to other websites of interest to boaters at boat.wa.gov  The Washington State Boaters Guide is available at the Blaine Harbor Office located at 235 Marine Drive in Blaine. Best wishes for a safe a memorable boating adventure.