Boating Safety for the Summer

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer - bikinis, beach trips, barbecues ... and boating safety? The U.S. Coast Guard is stressing the latter this year, ensuring that Americans don't ignore various issues while out on sea.

"A lot of people get mad because we're out there doing a lot of boarding, checking a lot of people," said Boatswain's Mate Third Class Patrick Hedden of Coast Guard Station Gulfport. "But the main thing we're doing out there is making sure people have all the safety gear, in case they need it. We want to make sure everybody's safe, and they don't come upon any problems."

It's not difficult to comply with Coast Guard regulations. If you own a vessel measuring 16 to 24 feet, make sure the boat contains the following:

* Registration on board
* Lifejackets (one Type III, Coast Guard approved, per person)
* At least one Type IV flotation device (a throwable device in case someone falls overboard)
* A sound producing device, such as a horn or whistle (preferably whistles without cork, as cork tends to swell)
* A fire extinguisher in good condition
* Flares.

"Though it's not required, we also recommend a VHF radio. We can't stress that enough. And a GPS. Especially if you go offshore," Hedden said. "Depending on where you go, cell phones may not have great service."

Never be out of range of help. While diets may be in fashion for those wishing to fit into their favorite bathing suit this summer, safety should always be in vogue.

-- Matt Richenthal

Boat First Aid Kit

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