Safe practices on the waters will continue to be observed – nationwide seven days leading up to Memorial Day – beyond 2018.
NATIONWIDE — Boaters are some of the most prepared people around to handle emergencies, according to Ventura Harbor’s Harbormaster during the California fires last year. Though boaters typically are model citizens in terms of taking precautions on the water, it never hurts to keep seeking additional education.
In the name of safe boating practices, Pres. Donald J. Trump recently signed National Safe Boating Week into law, issuing a proclamation stating it will be recognized nationally from this point forward. However, National Safe Boating Week is by no means a new thing — and wearing safety vests, though it has been said time and time again, is still one of the main subjects in boating safety awareness.
For more than 70 years since the conception of National Safe Boating Week, recreational boaters have been showing up to marinas, harbors and other waterways leading into the summer months to bring recognition to safety issues on the waters. While Trump may have written National Safe Boating Week into law, boaters and government agencies on the local, state and federal level have been participating for decades.
Proclaimed into Law
Dubbed Proclamation 9780, National Safe Boating Week became law on May 18 and the document was published on May 24. The official event was slated to be recognized in 2018 from May 19 until May 25. From this year on, National Safe Boating Week will be annually observed during the 7-day period leading up to Memorial Day.
Trump encouraged all Americans who participate in boating activities to take the chance to learn more about boating procedures and take educational opportunities. He also encouraged “appropriate officials of all units of government” to urge American boaters to take part in these activities to further inform their knowledge of boating.
Recognition of boating safety evolved from joint resolution approved on June 4, 1958 (36 U.S.C. 131) and has been amended to include the observance of National Safe Boating Week.
Language of the Proclamation stated: “Americans should take precautionary actions to ensure that everyone makes it home unharmed after fun on the water. Inspecting your boat thoroughly and participating in a free vessel safety check offered through the Coast Guard can help ensure both you and your boat are ready for the water … Boaters should also wear life jackets and make sure there is always someone onboard who is unimpaired and capable of operating the boat. The Coast Guard and its Federal, State and local partners estimate that avoiding alcohol and wearing a life jacket can prevent more than 80 percent of boating fatalities.”
The Birth of National Safe Boating Week
“Educating new and avid boaters never goes out of style,” Ramona Fernandez, chief of boating operations for California’s Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW), tells The Log. “Boaters take the role of protecting themselves and their loved ones seriously.”
Upon passing off the correspondence, DBW’s Information Officer Gloria Sandoval also said the division takes National Safe Boating Week very seriously.
Seldom does one meet an experienced boater who does not take boating safety seriously, and, perhaps, since early Americans were so tied to traveling by water this has stuck with us. Not to mention, inattention to recommended procedures could cost you, a friend or family member his or her life.
In “A Condensed History of National Safe Boating Week,” which can be accessed on the U.S. Coast Guard’s official website, the opening line states, “It all began with Steve Sadowski, a Coast Guard Auxiliarist in Amesbury, MA, who persuaded the town to issue a proclamation on Auxiliary Day in June 1949.”
Leading up to the bill passed on June 4, 1958, which was sponsored by Representative Charles Chamberlain of Michigan, Auxilarists on the East Coast had organized the Courtesy Marine Examination (now Vessel Safety Check) and Auxilarists in Hawaii garnered support from “Hawaii Five-O” television star “Lucky” Luck to promote the vessel inspection and National Safe Boating Week.
The year 1957 saw the first nationwide observance of National Safe Boating Week, and after the bill had passed, Senators at the time insisted that July 4 would be covered in the initial launch.
Eventually a National Safe Boating Committee would be established and the dates moved up to May since the committee argued that boaters would already be on the water by the Independence Day holiday.
No “ifs,” “ands” or “buts” — wear a safety vest!
“Like the U.S. Coast Guard, our top priority is to encourage recreational boaters to always wear a life jack while on the water,” Fernandez said. “Three out of four boating fatalities could have been prevented had the boater worn a life jacket.”
Though it has been repeated through multiple sources, not solely the DBW, wearing a safety vest is not a laughing matter.
Over the Memorial Day holiday, a five-year-old boy was rushed to the hospital after falling from his family’s houseboat near Greasy Cove at Lake Kaweah in Tulare County. Though the child had been wearing a life jacket earlier in the day, he had taken it off to watch a movie. Later at the hospital, the boy died with injuries related to the accident. A variation of this story is seen consistently with children.
In the unsafe practices that are mostly observed by DBW, the two most common are not wearing a life jacket and not taking a basic boating safety course.
“In 2016, more than 800 California recreational vessels were involved in reported accidents, resulting in 50 deaths. More than 266 were injured in severity beyond first aid treatment. Only one of the boat operators involved in fatal accidents had taken an approved boating safety course. Increased numbers of boaters taking approved safety courses will benefit all California boaters,” Fernandez said.
“Life jackets are the single most important piece of boating equipment. They can greatly increase your chances of survival in an accident,” Fernandez continued. “The good news is that life jackets are not the same today as they were even five years ago. They are more comfortable and come in a variety of styles, fit and function. Boaters should always read the labels and wear the life jacket that is approved for their intended activity.”
In asking for any final advice on behalf of the DBW, Fernandez stated: “At the risk of sounding like a broken record, wear your life jacket and take a boating safety course.”
“Check our website, boatcalifornia.com to find on-the-water classes,” Fernandez continued. “Check out californiaboatercard.com to find an online, classroom or home study boating safety course and then apply for your California Boater Card. We want to wish recreational boaters a fun and safe boating season. Remember to protect yourself and your loved ones by wearing life jackets and following simple, life-saving tips.”
Local Observation & Impact
Bill Anderson, an Auxiliarist and boating instructor, has taught many boating safety classes at Chula Vista Marina’s Rainbow Room. The Log has viewed the classroom, which is covered with decor such as maps and photos of travels. It’s a wonderful gathering space for boaters and a great way to make a friend or two to share sea adventures.
While Andeson states he’s glad to see the law proclaimed, he also points out National Safe Boating Week has a long and storied history as an annual event leading into the summer months.
Locally, there are many opportunities to get involved and beginning boaters, as well as avid boaters, are urged to take part in these activities.
“DBW fully supports National Safe Boating Week and partners with the National Safe Boating Council to bring awareness of boating safety to the millions of California recreational boaters,” Fernandez said. “For example, DBW reaches over 60,000 new and avid boaters during National Safe Boating Week through our partnership with aquatic centers and boating facilities throughout the state. Our partner, Crown Cove Aquatic Center at Silver Strand State Beach hosted a National Safe Boating Week event on May 20 that drew over 700 people to learn about boating safety classes.”
The first step according to DBW is to learn about local waterways from harbor and marina operators. Reaching out to local Coast Guard Auxilliary flotillas, U.S. Power Squadron chapters and American Canoe Association/paddlecraft organizations about classes, meetings and local boating activities is another avenue to educate oneself on learning how to best care for, operate and maintain safe practices on the water.
In terms of whether boaters are following up and observing National Safe Boating Week, Fernandez says it’s in the numbers.
“DBW receives positive feedback from our over 100,000 Facebook followers, aquatic centers and directly from boaters at outreach events. They have told us that they appreciate our marina posters, signage, billboards, radio and print messaging,” Fernandez said. “We survey boaters each fall to determine awareness of our boating safety messaging, and well over half of the survey respondents say they have heard or seen our messages and that it has affected their behavior on the water. Self-reported life jacket wear has increased since we began focusing our messaging on life jacket wear a few years ago.”
Harbors, marinas and boating agencies in Southern California from San Diego and up to Santa Barbara make it known boating week is taking place providing classes on using flares, giving CPR, life jacket safety and trade-in events and almost any boating subject under the sun.
As echoed by the Coast Guard, DBW, local marina and harbor operators, and experienced boaters and sailors, The Log wishes all boaters a safe and enjoyable boating season as we enter the summer months.