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U.S. Coast Guard urges boaters to be safe Labor Day weekend


HONOLULU — With one of the busiest recreational boating weekends on the horizon, the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the Honolulu Sail and Power Squadron are working together to remind boaters that following basic safety precautions can ensure a safe, enjoyable Labor Day weekend on the water.

This weekend affords people with plenty of opportunity to enjoy Hawaii’s waters. If you boat, commit to boating sober.

According to Coast Guard statistics, victims fell overboard or capsized their boat in more than half of the boating deaths involving alcohol. An intoxicated person in the water faces a double danger – being unaware of the onset of hypothermia and increased disorientation resulting from inner ear disturbances.

As with drinking and driving, boating while intoxicated is illegal. Both the Coast Guard and individual states enforce Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws and violators face substantial fines, losing their operator privileges, and jail time. The Coast Guard and state law enforcement agencies have concurrent jurisdiction, meaning they can both enforce BUI laws.

“If we could communicate three short messages, they would be: wear your life jacket; give a safety briefing to those boating with you; and be totally aware at all times of conditions around you,” said Kent Richards, the 14th Coast Guard District’s recreational boating specialist.

To enjoy a safe day on the water, the Coast Guard also suggests that boaters:

  • File a float plan – A float plan is simply letting a reliable loved one or friend know where you are going, when you are going to be back, and what kind of vessel you have. That person can call the Coast Guard if you don’t return on time and save critical time during searches;
  • Be aware of weather and water conditions;
  • Never boat or paddle alone;
  • Be cautious–do not exceed your ability to handle your vessel;
  • Be constantly aware of other vessels in the immediate area.

The Coast Guard also encourages coastal and off-shore recreational boaters as well as sea kayakers to carry a VHF marine radio — either a fixed system or handheld unit — and be familiar with its operation and radio procedures. The VHF radio, monitored on channel 16, is your gateway to communicating with the Coast Guard or other vessels in your area. It can be a life saver in a distress situation.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends that all boaters take a recreational boating safety course and obtain a vessel safety check. Even if you pay careful attention to safety, dangerous mechanical problems can crop up on the best-maintained boat. That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boaters take advantage of the free vessel safety check program. Vessel safety checks are conducted by local Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotillas.

Boaters in distress may contact the Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16 or 808-842-2600.

Additional course information is also available through the BOAT/U.S. Foundation at 1-800-336-BOAT.

For additional boating safety tips, boaters can access the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Web site at: or

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