To the Editor:
National Safe Boating week begins on May 19. Everyone on the Vineyard is gearing up for the summer season. Most people will have to sharpen their skills after being off the water for more than five months. With this in mind, it would be a good idea to have a free safety check done by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary on Island. It is very simple and takes only about 20 minutes. Then you can start out the season knowing that your boat is fully “shipshape.” If you pass, you get an inspection sticker that is attached to your vessel. Typically, more than 85 percent of Vineyard vessels fail their first inspection. If the Coast Guard ever stops you on the water for a random boarding, the decal shows that you have all of the equipment required by state and federal law for that year, and chances are that you won’t get boarded.
There are no fines involved with the Auxiliary if you do not have the mandatory equipment. The sticker will be issued when everything is complete. The Auxiliary uses the same checklist that the CG uses. However, if the USCG finds missing equipment, that can result in a fine or even a “termination of voyage,” where you are escorted back to your port and cannot depart until all discrepancies are corrected.
Unfortunately this occurs many times on the Vineyard. A good place to check what you require is on the auxiliary web site: safetyseal.net. You are also able to find an examiner (in all 50 states) by putting in your local zip code. We have many fully trained examiners on the Island. The big push this year is lifejackets and safety education. According to recent statistics, 88 percent of the people who drowned from a boating accident were not wearing life jackets. Of the more than 4,700 accidents (fatal and non-fatal), only 12 percent had any boater safety education. About 90 percent of those accidents occurred in boats 23 feet long or less. The three biggest causes of all accidents were alcohol, excessive speed, and operator inattention.
Let’s all be safe out there this year and enjoy the beautiful waters of Martha’s Vineyard.
Coast Guard Auxiliary