Maine Marine Patrol Encourages Safety Heading into Recreational Boating Season

Augusta - May 19-25 is National Safe Boating Week, and the Maine Marine Patrol wants to remind recreational boaters to stay safe while enjoying Maine’s waters.

“This summer, thousands of boaters will spend time with friends and family on Maine’s coastal waters, rivers and lakes,” said Maine Marine Patrol Colonel Jon Cornish. “As we near Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the boating season, we want to remind people about safe boating practices.”

In Maine, all children 10 and under must wear a life jacket. Adults don’t have to wear them but they must be available on board for every occupant. "Life jackets do save lives,” said Colonel Cornish. “If you end up in the water unconscious for some reason, a properly-fitting life jacket will keep you afloat, which is especially important this time of the year when the water is still very cold.

Before your first day on the water, Colonel Cornish recommends a thorough assessment of vessel and safety equipment. “In addition to life jackets, safe boaters should have working navigation lights, visual distress signals, sound signalling devices, VHF radio, cell phone, proper ventilation, and properly displayed registration numbers. A thorough check of fire extinguishers and flares should be done to make sure they’re in working order.

“It’s also a good time to take a boating safety course,” said Colonel Cornish. “The US Power Squadrons, a non-profit, educational organization that offers classes in seamanship, navigation and related subjects, and the Coast Guard Auxiliary both offer excellent public boating courses.”

Boaters should also be sure to file a float plan with a friend or relative. “It’s important to let someone know where you are going and your approximate time of return,” said Colonel Cornish. “Always make sure you check the local marine forecast before heading out on Maine’s coastal waters.”

In addition, paddlers should always dress for the water temperature. “Maine’s ocean temperatures, even in the summer, can be extremely cold, and the weather can change in an instant,” said Colonel Cornish. The Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides and Instructors recommends paddlers wear a dry suit if the water temperature is less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or a wet suit if the water temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees.

Another important safety issue to consider is drinking and boating. According to recent Coast Guard statistics, alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities.

“People should be aware that the Marine Patrol has zero tolerance for boating under the influence,” explained Colonel Cornish. “Alcohol use can be even more dangerous in a marine environment than on land. Boaters under the influence are just like motorists under the influence – and we are going to prosecute those people who make the waters unsafe for the rest of us.”

“The Marine Patrol will be working throughout the coming months to make sure boaters stay safe on Maine’s coastal waters.”

For more information on recreational boating safety, visit the Maine Department of Marine Resources website .