Pack your lifejackets before hitting the water

RescuedBoundaryBay-WalterSelden

This hapless group was adrift in Boundary Bay without power, oars or lifejackets. Luckily, a nearby boater gave them a tow back to shore. Photo by Walter Selden

By Andy Peterson

Before you head for the launch ramp or untie from the dock it’s a good idea to check your boating safety equipment, including your life jackets. Life jackets and personal flotation devices (PFDs) are designed to help keep you afloat in the water while you wait for rescue or work on rescuing yourself.

Many different types of life jackets are available and each type has its own pros and cons. Life jackets are designed to work best when properly worn, and not used as a seat cushion or pillow.

According to the 2015 Washington Adventures in Boating Handbook, provided by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission boating program, all vessels, including non-motorized watercraft, are required to have at least one United States Coast Guard (USCG)-approved Type I, II, or III life jacket for each person on board.

Washington state law requires 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, unless in a fully enclosed area.

Copies of the Washington Adventures in Boating Handbook and the U.S. Coast Guard’s federal requirements and safety tips for recreational boaters are available free at the Blaine Harbor Office, located at 235 Marine Drive, or you can view the handbooks and other boating-related information online at the parks website at parks.wa.gov/435/Boating and also at the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary website at cgaux.org/rbs/index.php.

The Blaine Harbor Office participates in the Boat US Foundation’s life jacket loaner program for kids. The program makes loaner life jackets available to boating families that do not have enough properly fitting life jackets aboard their boat for the day or weekend. Only a limited number of life jackets are available so prompt returns are requested.

Boaters should be reminded that Washington now requires boat operators ages 12 years and older to pass a boating safety course and obtain a Boater Education Card before operating a motorized vessel of 15 horsepower or greater. More information on the Boater Education Card can be found at the Washington state parks website mentioned above.

I hope everyone has a safe and memorable boating adventure this summer.

Andy Peterson is the harbormaster for Blaine Marina. 

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