PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Residents across Hampton Roads will be hitting the waterways this holiday weekend and the United States Coast Guard wants people to have fun but to stay safe.
On Friday, they invited 10 On Your Side to their Portsmouth base to learn more about water safety and what people should know before heading out this weekend.
The most important safety equipment is a life vest, according to Petty Officer 2nd Class Corinne Zilnicki.
She said that life vest should be worn at all times on the water.
“You want to make sure your life jacket is appropriate for you. It may not help you if it’s the wrong size, tattered or doesn’t fit,” Zilnicki said.
Life jackets state how much body weight they can float, according to Zilnicki.
Besides life jackets, boaters and others can use personal locator beacons that will relay locations back to the Coast Guard.
Signaling mirrors can also help attract the attention of other nearby boaters in case you fall into the water.
Zilnicki also suggests taking two-way radios to contact the Coast Guard because cell phones may not be reliable.
“The signal could weaken if you go off shore. The battery could die. It could get wet, so how can you call for help?” she asked.
And when it comes to using the radio, the Coast Guard wants to remind parents to not let kids play on them.
“Channel 16 is for hailing and distress only. When children are on board playing on radios and they say help or mayday, the Coast Guard has to respond,” said Operations Specialist 3rd Class John Bruce.
Zilnicki also recommends identification and contact stickers for kayaks and canoes that allows them to get in touch with boaters quicker.
This will prevent them from undergoing a search and rescue operation if it’s only a lost vessel.
Reflector stickers placed on paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes, also make them seen by bigger boats to prevent collisions from occurring.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Franklin Castro said there’s another issue that they run into while patrolling the waterways.
Passengers are not allowed to sit on the bow or dangle limbs off the side of the boat.
“It could drag you under the boat and you could get run over It is a big issue and it’s not allowed,” Castro said.
Castro also stressed the importance of not operating a boat while intoxicated.
If caught, operators will be detained, have their trip terminated, and fines can vary.
Zilnicki said boating while intoxicated affects more than just one boat out on the water.
“You’re not only putting yourself at risk but others around you at risk. So please be safe, enjoy your weekend and take care of yourself,” she said.