Boating safety is first priority

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, April 8, 2020

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Recreational boating safety is job one — this is highlighted in this past month’s issue (March 2020) of U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Directorates and in the news events this past month off of Herring Bay on the Chesapeake Bay.

While I was writing this column, one adult body was recovered after an adult and child pursued a missed kickball that went into the water, and jumped into a canoe without any thought of danger, to recover it. Were they at all prepared? No life jackets, water temperatures under 60 degrees (hypothermia sets in within 20 minutes or less), high winds and a strong current.

Both USCG Station Annapolis and Maryland Department of Natural Resources were on scene within 30 minutes. Despite the excellent response time from the rescue resources, the outcome is very sad.

Both the sad event and the USCG Auxiliary Directorate show the importance of preventing tragedy and being prepared. Always wear life jackets! Life jackets keep you afloat. Most people who have lost their lives to drowning were not wearing life jackets. Think about the tragedy in Maryland; it would have made a difference. It doesn’t matter what size vessel you operate — life jackets are like seat belts: they don’t work if they’re not worn.

During these times of COVID-19, we have some new rules to live by with social distancing: follow all stay-at-home orders; only boat with people who live in your house — no boating with friends and guests. When trailering, go straight to your boat, no boarding or rafting with other boats or people; follow all boating safety practices; wear life jackets; file a float plan; no boating under the influence; no bow riding; wash your hands thoroughly after fueling; maintain proper distances from everyone you encounter; always protect the marine environment; and be safe — have fun.

Captain’s note: When we boat for recreational pleasure, it’s a privilege. During this present health crisis, we are reminded of that, temporarily in some states, such as Florida and Maryland, recreational boating is prohibited. We wish everyone during the COVID-19 threat, and every day, to be safe and all our prayers.

In the next couple of weeks, we will be writing columns to support your time on the water.  From preparing your trailer and boats, to how to do your own vessel safety check, and additional topics. But most important, we want to hear from you. Please email your questions to

Capt. David Silberstein is a vessel examination staff officer with USCG Auxiliary, Flotilla 20-06, in Washington.