Try On the No. 1 Boating Safety Tip

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“Wear It!” That’s the nationwide theme that the National Safe Boating Council is using for this year’s Safe Boating Week, tomorrow through May 25. The council is trying to educate boaters that it is not enough to just have a few lifejackets stuffed in a locker onboard the boat – you must wear the lifejackets to increase your chances of surviving serious accidents.

The National Safe Boating Council and their partners organize this annual event to encourage boaters to wear their lifejackets. In 2010, drowning was the reported cause of death in almost three-quarters of all boating fatalities, and 88 percent of those were not wearing their lifejackets. Wearing your lifejacket is the most effective and simple lifesaving strategy for safe recreational boating.

Watch out, as the statistics show that July and August are the months for the highest number of fatalities. Of course, these months are the worst because they are when most people go boating – during the summer. The first of July can see a spike in accidents, because boaters who have not touched a helm since last summer go boating again and the waters are still cold.

This is a good campaign but the question still remains, “How practical is it to always wear your lifejacket?” Both California and the Coast Guard have enacted laws and regulations requiring children to wear their lifejackets while underway on smaller boats, but the statistics show that the adults are ones most at risk. The current standard lifejackets are not very comfortable and not very fashionable to wear while yachting. However, the lifejacket manufacturers are finally starting to address comfort and style.

A few boating coats are incorporating floatation materials built into the lining, but I have yet to try one for comfort and warmth. Also, the inflatable lifejacket market is trying to earn the seal of approval from the recreational boater. However, do not try to take your inflatable lifejacket on any airliner because you cannot bring onboard the small CO2 canister that is used to inflate the lifejacket. I think that we will see more inflatables being worn in the near future, and I still need to try the newer coats.

Remember to check the laws of the state in which you will be boating for its lifejacket requirements.

Many boaters have false perceptions of lifejacket safety – and how often do you check the lifejackets aboard your vessel? I have five questions below. See how your answers compare to the actual answers.

1. How often should lifejackets be tested for wear and buoyancy?

2. How many lifejackets are boaters required to have on their vessel?

3. True or False, lifejackets come in only one size and shape?

4. True or False, lifejackets can make it harder to swim if you capsize?

5. At what age can boaters use inflatable life jackets as an alternative to an inherently buoyant life jacket?

The answers are: 1. every time you go boating; 2. a lifejacket for each person aboard your vessel; 3. False, lifejackets are manufactured in various styles; 4. False, lifejackets will keep you afloat and aid you in swimming; 5. 16 years old.

I am curious to hear about any Safe Boating Week events that are occurring in the Newport Harbor area. I have not heard of any events nor seen any press releases that list events here. Let me know if you know of any events, and organizations can start thinking about joining in for next year’s Safe Boating Week. The National Safe Boating Council has a lot of information and printable materials on its website at

Tip of the week is that the “Complete Cruising Guide to Newport Harbor” has been updated and now is available online. The second edition, which is published by the City of Newport Beach, should be on every local boater’s reading list, and is a very helpful guide for visiting boaters, as well. The guide explains in detail about the moorings and anchorage for boaters from afar and those wishing to drop the hook for the afternoon.

A nice feature of the guide is the listings of shops, restaurants, transportation, laundry facilities, mobile pump-out services, and attractions for a visiting boater. Additionally, the map of the harbor is well-defined, as Newport Harbor can be very confusing with the eight islands, three peninsulas, and many channels.

The publication is free and online at

And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 am Pacific. Join Chandler Bell and me as we talk about “all things boating.” You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at or

Until next week, Safe Voyages!

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