Boat Safety: Important in any season for any type of vessel

Garrison Bromwell, district captain – north of Washington-based Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas, answers questions about boating safety with a show patron at the Seattle Boat Show at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., Jan.23, 2015. Bromwell volunteers for many activities within the auxiliary, such as an instructor for the Auxiliary’s public education program, member training courses and the specialized Auxiliary Search Coordination and Execution course. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross.

Garrison Bromwell, district captain – north of Washington-based Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas, answers questions about boating safety with a show patron at the Seattle Boat Show at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., Jan.23, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross.

Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer

Though many people in the Pacific Northwest may be currently focused on hitting the slopes of Mt. Baker or hibernating inside to avoid the rainy season, the increasing daylight hours give thousands of mariners hope: boating season is almost here.

And this year, more than any in recent memory, there will be more than just motor boaters enjoying the waters.

“We’ve seen a big shift in the type of vessels operating in our waterways,” said Dan Shipman, recreational boating safety coordinator for the Coast Guard 13th District, which encompasses all of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. “A recent study conducted in Oregon found that non-motorized vessel usage exceeded motorized vessel usage. I wouldn’t be surprised if that holds true in Washington, as well.”

Mariners who plan day trips on non-motorized vessels such as kayaks and paddleboards may be less experienced than traditional boaters and less likely to carry the proper safety equipment. They are also more likely to be affected by sudden changes in weather.

That’s why it’s important to start preparing now.

Edward Schulman (left) and Garrison Bromwell (right), members of Washington-based Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas, discuss boating safety tips to share with the public during the Seattle Boat Show at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Jan. 23, 2015. Auxiliary members and other recreational boating safety experts manned a boater education center at the boat show to encourage mariners to prepare early for the summer boating season. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer.

Edward Schulman (left) and Garrison Bromwell (right), members of Washington-based Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas, discuss boating safety tips to share with the public during the Seattle Boat Show at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Jan. 23, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer.

Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and other boating safety experts have set up shop at the Seattle Boat Show to provide information, answer questions and recommend safety equipment to ensure every person on the water is confident and prepared for any situation.

“We look at our boating safety message as being preventative,” said Garrison Bromwell, Coast Guard Auxiliary district captain — north, who oversees all Auxiliary flotillas west of the Cascades from the Canadian border to Olympia, Wash. “By getting the message out there, we can prevent search and rescue cases.”

If you can’t make it out to the boat show this year, don’t worry. There are plenty of opportunities for you to get your questions answered, take a boating safety course in your area, or receive a recreational boating safety exam before leaving the dock.

No matter how you choose to prepare, it is critical that you start early and are fully ready the first time you set sail.

“More boating fatalities occur in the Pacific Northwest in the month of May than the rest of the summer,” said Shipman. “The majority of fatalities are on vessels less than 16 feet, and we’re seeing an increase in fatalities in non-motorized boats.”

Coast Guard Auxiliary members Edward Schulman (left) and Garrison Bromwell (middle), and Dan Shipman (right), recreational boating safety coordinator for the Coast Guard 13th District, discuss boating safety tips to share with the public during the Seattle Boat Show at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Jan. 23, 2015.  Experts at the boater education center stressed the importance of each mariner knowing his limits and the limits of his vessel. U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer.

Coast Guard Auxiliary members Edward Schulman (left) and Garrison Bromwell (middle), and Dan Shipman (right), recreational boating safety coordinator for the Coast Guard 13th District, discuss boating safety tips to share with the public during the Seattle Boat Show at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Jan. 23, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer.

The sometimes rough and often unpredictable waters along the coasts of Washington and Oregon and on the rivers and lakes of Idaho and Montana pose challenges for first time paddlesport enthusiasts and seasoned mariners alike. It’s never a bad idea to brush up on your knowledge and skills.

Before you take your shiny new boat or kayak on its maiden voyage, take the time to research and obtain the proper safety equipment. The same is true for seasoned boaters pulling vessels out of winter storage. You can’t predict what will happen on the water, but you can greatly reduce your chances of needing to make a last-minute mayday call.

And if you do, make sure you have multiple forms of communication including a VFH-FM marine radio.

For more information about boating safety and the resources available to help you prepare for your next trip on the water, please visit www.cgaux.org.

The Seattle Boat Show runs from Jan. 23 to 31 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

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