COOS BAY — To keep things fun and safe this Labor Day weekend, the Oregon State Marine Board suggests taking the time to plan your water getaway and stay safe with the following tips:
- Boat Sober. Boating is a great social activity, but the Marine Board encourages boaters and persons floating on the waterways, to leave the alcohol on shore. It’s safer for everyone. If arrested for Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants (BUII), violators can be fined up to $6,250; can lose boating privileges for up to three years and even serve jail time. Intoxicants include marijuana, illicit drugs, and even some prescription drugs.
- Know your waterway. “Be familiar with your surroundings and always watch where you are going,” says Ashley Massey, Public Information Officer for the Marine Board. “Stumps, deadheads and sand and gravel bars can appear out of nowhere with water depth changes. Start out slow and get your bearings. Water levels around the state are low this time of year which means stumps and gravel bars abound.”
- Know what rules apply. “There are all types of watercraft on the market; some are considered boats and others are pool toys. Boats are designed differently, and by state law, have specific equipment requirements such as having enough properly fitted life jackets and a sound producing device, like a whistle. Attach the whistle to your life jacket and you’re set.” Massey adds. “If you plan to float the river, keep in mind that pool toys are designed for use in a swimming pool, have no directional control, and can puncture easily. If you are planning a relaxing float, do so in a watercraft designed for the river; one which won’t easily puncture and comes properly equipped with a paddle so you can maneuver away from obstructions.” Remember, any boat with a motor even temporarily mounted, must be titled and registered.
- Wear your life jacket. Each boat (including canoes and kayaks, inflatable boats, stand up paddleboards) must have a properly fitting life jacket for each person on board and at least one sound producing device. Life jackets need to be in good shape and readily accessible – not under a hatch or in its packaging. All youth younger than 13 must wear a life jacket when in a boat that’s underway. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that over half of all boating fatalities occur with small boats on calm waterways, in shallow water and sunny conditions.
- Sit on the seat inside the boat. Many boaters are tempted to ride on the swim platform, stern, sides and the bow of unenclosed boats. The stern can be a dangerous place for exposure to carbon monoxide and a prop-strike safety hazard. It is illegal to ride on the bow, decks, gunwales or transoms of a motorboat when the boat is underway. Sitting on designated seats is the safest option –especially when the boat is towing someone. Just because new boats have seats on the transom or swim step doesn’t make them legal.
- Slow down and keep a sharp lookout. Know the boating regulations for your area of operation. Always obey the “slow-no wake” buoys or signs. Boaters, including PWCs, are responsible for their wake. Remember to slow down within 200 feet of a dock, launch ramp, marina, moorage, floating home or boathouse, pier or swim float. Be courteous with one another and share the waterway. Paddlers should stay close to shore, crossing busy channels at right angles only when it is safe.
Marine officers will be enforcing slow-no wake zones and other marine laws. The top violations so far this summer involve life jacket violations, excessive speed, unsafe operation, failure to maintain a proper lookout, riding on the gunwales, deck or transom when a boat is underway, and overloading.
There have been 15 recreational boating fatalities involving six motorized boats, eight nonmotorized and one sailboat. Only four of the victims were wearing life jackets and those accidents occurred on rivers where other factors contributed to the fatalities.
For more information about equipment requirements, regulations and ideas on where to go boating, visit www.boatoregon.com.