At the U.S. Coast Guard Station Manasquan Inlet crew members are boarding boats daily for random safety checks.
“From doing boardings this year I can tell from Sandy, they’re getting their new boats. They don’t know the boat, they don’t know were life jackets are,” U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael Robertson.
Nationwide boat fatalities have decreased from 651 deaths in 2012 to 560 deaths last year but in New Jersey boat fatalities increased from seven to eight deaths.
“Safety is not the first thing they think of, they just want to get out and have a good time and they don’t realize something bad could happen,” said U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Amanda Babcock.
Which is why the Coast Guard boards boats for safety sweeps– checking for fire hazards, ensuring the engine compartment isn’t taking on water and that there are enough life jackets on board for all passengers. Crew members also make sure the vessel has a throw-able flotation device, safety horn, fire extinguisher, and then they check the driver’s license and registration. The crew members say some boaters overlook the importance of wearing a life jacket but the vest can literally be just that– a lifesaver.
The chance of drowning in a boating accident while wearing a life-jacket is one in 66 compared to one in 11 with no life jacket.
Children 13 and under are required to wear life-jackets on a boat at all times, but the US Coast Guard recommends everyone wear a life jacket, but it just as important that it fits properly. This is how it works, first you put on the life-jacket, then zips it up, then the two buckles in the front are clipped together. You make sure the life-jacket actually fits, by lifting it up by the shoulders.
“Whenever you’re unconscious in the water, it has to be able to hold you upright in the right position,” Babcock.
Alcohol use is another major safety hazard– it was the leading known contributing factor in last year’s nationwide fatal boating accidents.
“People don’t think that it’s as dangerous as driving a car, but if you think about it, it’s more dangerous, you’re driving a vehicle without brakes,” Robertson.
Superstorm Sandy filled many channels with silt, making them dangerous to navigate says veteran boater Neptune Township resident Drew LaFrance who docks in the Shark River Beach and Yacht Club.
“Several times I’ve seen last year and this year, I’ve seen boats run aground and almost collide because of the fact they can’t navigate the channel,” said LaFrance.
The Coast Guard recommends boaters provide friends and family with a float plan, which gives details on the trip and the number of passengers on board.