Celebrating America’s birthday, thousands of boaters are expected to hit the water this Fourth of July holiday weekend, recreational boating’s traditional busiest time of the year. With COVID-19 it certainly won’t be the same. The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has a few boating safety reminders just in time for the holiday.
While boaters will need to follow social distancing guidelines, that’s not the only COVID-19 concern, according to the Foundation. While many local community fireworks displays have been canceled this year, some boaters may wish to offer their own fireworks show and take to the water with pyrotechnics. “With gallons of fuel aboard and other flammable materials – your boat – you would be truly risking lives,” said BoatUS Foundation Assistant Director of Boating Safety Ted Sensenbrenner. “It’s not worth the risk. There is no safe place aboard a boat suitable for using fireworks.”
As the captain, you can’t head out without remembering that your passengers become your responsibility as soon as you pull away from the dock. Think twice about loading up the boat with a cooler full with beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks as alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
“Just because the captain is sober doesn’t mean alcohol should be free-flowing aboard your boat,” said Sensenbrenner. “The stressors of a hot sun, wind and waves all day when combined with alcohol can intensify the effects of inebriation, increasing the risk of a passenger slip or fall overboard or worse. Save the alcohol for celebrating after you have safely returned home for the night.”
Lastly, remember that you won’t be out on the water alone. Operation Dry Water will heighten BUI awareness and enforcement during the three-day weekend of July 3−5, and law enforcement officers will be on alert for those violating boating under the influence laws. Agencies from all 50 states and are expected to participate for increased enforcement.