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Coronavirus COVID-19 Lake & Rivers Local News

National Safe Boating Week Ends Friday as Canyon Lake’s Summer Boating Season Begins

Several flotillas of partiers drop anchor to enjoy the clear waters of Canyon Lake. This photo was taken before COVID-19 and does not reflect any best practices for social distancing. Image shot by Mark Robinson, owner of Holiday Lodge on Canyon Lake, during a helicopter flyover.

National Safe Boating Week ends this Friday, just in time for Memorial Day, the official start to Canyon Lake’s summer boating season.

Although this is the year for warning boaters about the importance of social distancing, the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC), the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and the Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) are just as concerned about other good practices for staying safe and alive on the water.

General Safety Guidelines

  • All boaters should always wear life jackets.
  • Avoid alcohol. Boating under the influence of alcohol is the primary leading cause of recreational boating accidents. Alcohol is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities.
  • Make sure you have and know how to use all essential equipment.
  • Know what’s going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents in 2018 were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.
  • Make a float plan. Let family and friends know where you’re going and when you will return.
  • Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds. Familiarize yourself with local boating speed zones and always travel at a safe speed.
  • Carry all required boating safety equipment such as flares, navigation lights, horns or whistles, and a first aid kit.
  • Have more than one communication device that works when wet.
  • Keep in touch. Cell phones, satellite phones, EPIRB or personal locator beacons, and VHF radios are important devices in an emergency.
  • Use engine cut-off devices on watercraft with a motor. This may be a cord lanyard or a wireless device. An engine cut-off device will immediately stop the boat’s engine should the operator or even a passenger fall overboard.
  • Be wary of carbon monoxide. Gasoline-powered engines on boats produce carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas that is poisonous. Avoid letting people swim anywhere near the stern or rear of a motorized vessel. Don’t let occupants sit along the swim deck/platform of a motorized vessel while the boat motor is running.
  • Standup paddle boarders should wear an appropriate leash for the venue. It should attach to the paddleboard and the participant’s ankle or calf.

Social Distancing

COVID-19 is forcing everyone to navigate uncharted waters, including boaters. According to safeboatingcampaign.com, many people are wondering if they can go boating, who they can boat with, and where they will go once they leave the dock.

Although the water is open, boaters should focus on limiting unnecessary risk to other boaters, law enforcement and first responders.

General guidelines outlined by NSBC include:

  • Limiting those aboard a boat to people in your immediate family. No guests, friends or grandparents that don’t live in the same house.
  • Stay at least six feet away from others who don’t live in your house.
  • Maintain safe distances at fuel docks, marinas and boat ramps.
  • Wash hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer.
  • Don’t raft up to other boaters or pull up onto a beach next to someone else as it could put you into close proximity to others.
  • Avoid unnecessary contact.
  • Don’t go boating if someone in your household is sick.

Life Jackets

“We can practice social distancing using CDC guidelines while enjoying our nation’s waterways,” said Peg Phillips, executive director of the NSBC. “Wearing a life jacket is the easiest safety step a boater can take, similar to wearing a seat belt when you’re in a vehicle.”

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2018, and 84-percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

She advises recreationalists to select a life jacket that fits snugly and comfortably — “and that you will want to wear.”

Things to consider are body type, swim skills, recreational water activity and the environment.

NSBC said these are the top five most-common excuses it hears from boaters who chose not to wear life jackets:

  1. “I have life jackets on board.” Having life jackets on board the vessel is not enough. Accidents happen too fast to put on a stowed life jacket.
  2. “I’m a strong swimmer.” Even a strong swimmer needs to wear a life jacket. During an emergency, clothing can become heavy or waterlogged while in the water.
  3. “It’s too hot and doesn’t look cool.” Old-fashioned, bulky orange life jackets have been replaced with new styles, like inflatable life jackets that may resemble a pair of suspenders or a belt pack. These are much cooler in the warmer weather.
  4. “It gets in the way.” There are life-jacket styles available for any recreational water activity — fishing, water sports, hunting, paddling and more. There are even styles for pets.
  5. “Nothing is going to happen to me.” Boating can be fun, safe and enjoyable, but the consequences can be grim for recreationalists who choose not to wear life jackets.


NWS has its eye on the weather and the role it plays in boater safety.

“Many people do not think about or plan for the impact weather conditions can have on their boating safety,” said Darren Wright, national marine program lead at NOAA’s NWS. “It’s critical that they check the weather conditions, including water temperature, before their departure and regularly check for updates on potentially changing conditions.”

Boaters should have at least two communications devices with them when on the water that work when wet, according to NWS.

Satellite phones, emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRB), VHF radios and personal locator beacons (PLB) are recommended as cell phones are not reliable in emergency situations.

It is also a good idea to bring a NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) receiver to keep track of weather conditions. The NWR network provides near continuous coverage for most coastal areas served by NWS offices. Typical coverage is up to 25 nautical miles offshore.

The U.S. Coast Guard broadcasts coastal forecasts and storm warnings of interest to the mariner on VHF channel 22A following an initial announcement on VHF channel 16.

Collaborating for Boater Safety

NSBC and NOAA are collaborating with other boating safety groups and organizations to encourage safe boating on the water throughout the 2020 boating season. The NSBC is proud to be a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador, as a part of NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation initiative.

About the National Safe Boating Council

The National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) is a national catalyst for recreational boating safety and organizer of the Safe Boating Campaign, with support from boating safety advocates around the world. The Safe Boating Campaign is produced under a grant from the Sports Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. For more information about the NSBC and its programs, visit safeboatingcouncil.org.

About NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Weather Service (NWS) is the official government source for weather forecasts, watches and warnings in the U.S. NWS’ marine forecasts provide timely weather information relating to U.S. coastal and offshore waters, the Great Lakes, and the open oceans to ensure the safety of life and protection of property, promote international and interstate commerce by improving the efficiency of marine operations, mitigate environmental impacts and enhance the quality of life for the United States. NOAA’s National Ocean Service provides navigation products, such as nautical charts, that protect lives, strengthen the maritime economy, and position America for the future.


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