Did you know that National Safe Boating Week begins Saturday and ends May 23? This is a week of safety awareness for recreational boaters with the goal of educating and reminding them to be safe and responsible on the waterways — an important issue as the boating season is beginning and boaters are emerging from hibernation.
This year's theme, "Wear It! Always Wear Your Life Jacket," is the same as last year's. The program's aim is to remind everyone to wear life jackets on the water and to store them in a readily accessible location onboard.
The National Safe Boating Council and the National Assn. of State Boating Law Administrators organize this annual event with cooperation of the United States Coast Guard. National statistics show that your chances of surviving a serious accident will increase if you are wearing a life jacket.
Coast Guard statistics show only 651 boating fatalities in 2012, which is down 107 from 758 fatalities in 2011. These numbers continue to be very low and demonstrate that recreational boating is a very safe outdoor activity. Boaters should congratulate themselves for the impressive safety record.
Further, you should consider that the National Marine Manufacturers Assn. estimates in 2012 that 88 million people in the United States participated at least once in recreational boating. Therefore, only 0.0007% of those boating were killed in this activity that spans all inland waterways and out to the coastal waters.
Keep in mind that the statistics include not only conventional sail and powerboat mishaps, but also airboats, canoes, kayaks, houseboats, personal watercraft, rowboats, stand-up paddle boarding and swimmers who enter the water from a boat.
As you start the summer boating season, be extra cautious as the data shows that May, June and July have the highest number of fatalities. I think this trend holds true as this is the time when most boaters have not touched a helm since last summer, and additionally, the waters are still cold. Keep in mind that I am only mentioning fatalities in this column and not boat accidents. Fatalities have to be reported and are much easier to track than accidents. Most boaters never report an accident unless there is harm to a person or major damage to a vessel, so I think the boating accident statistics are not exact.
National Safe Boating Week is a good campaign to encourage boaters to start thinking about safety at the very beginning of the season. Both California and the Coast Guard have enacted laws for children to wear their life jackets while underway on smaller boats, but the statistics show that adults are most at risk. However, most life jackets are not very comfortable and not very fashionable to wear while yachting, but manufacturers are addressing the comfort and style issues.
I think that the inflatable life jackets will be the future for many recreational boaters and fishermen. However, remember to check the laws for the body of water where you will be boating for the current life jacket regulations.
I would like to hear about any National Safe Boating Week events in Southern California, since I have not heard of or seen press releases for any. The National Safe Boating Council has a lot of information and printable materials on its website at http://www.safeboatingcampaign.com.
Tip of the week is that our daytime air temperatures will be in the 70s this weekend along the coast after our heat wave during the week. The nighttime temperatures will be in the mid to high 50s, and the nighttime skies will be clear for those wanting to stargaze. Our daytime skies will be sunny after the early morning coastal fog burns off.
The two-foot south swell will continue to push up the coast this weekend and combine with a three-foot westerly swell. The mixed set will create a slight washing machine effect in the open ocean, so angle your course to minimize the boat's pitch, roll and yaw for your guests.
Saturday's afternoon winds are anticipated to blow five to 10 knots from the south-southeast and shift more to the southwest by Sunday. There will be one- to two-foot wind waves that should not create a wet ride.
As always, just keep an eye to the weather for any changes. Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.
Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network. See times at http://www.boathousetv.com, http://www.facebook.com/boathouseradio and http://www.twitter.com/boathouseradio.
MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.boathousetv.com.