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Experts insist boating safety starts on shore - Ocean City Sentinel: Community

Experts insist boating safety starts on shore

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Posted: Wednesday, May 6, 2015 11:33 am

If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region, chances are you’ve been frustrated with the weather this past winter. Then it snowed … on the first day of spring!

Now that temperatures are beginning to reach the mid-60s, many boaters are ready to hit the water and shake off that cabin fever. But before heading out, there are numerous factors to consider.

The U.S. Coast Guard consistently reminds boaters of the importance of wearing life jackets and filing a float plan, but many do not check the wiring on their boat. That’s one of the many tips from Clyde Rawls, director of operations for the Frank S. Farley State Marina in Atlantic City.

“Regardless of the size of the boat, everything should be checked,” Rawls said. “If the boat’s been stowed for any length of time, you really need to go over everything with a fine-tooth comb, looking for loose wiring that could cause failure of a piece of equipment necessary to propel the boat.”

A boat can quickly become disabled if loose wiring causes the engine to malfunction, but a disabled boat can also sink if weather takes a turn for the worse before help arrives. That’s why proper communications devices are a solid investment.

“Having a VHF radio onboard is vitally important — it’s one of the most important pieces of safety equipment you can have,” Rawls said. “It’s a direct line to the Coast Guard. It’s a direct line to all the boats anywhere in eyesight. If something’s going on, you have a lot more eyes immediately looking around and spotting you rather than you trying to place a 911 call from a cellphone out in the middle of the ocean.”

Rawls also said cellphone batteries can die at the most inopportune time, so VHF radios are exponentially more reliable. Additionally, cellphone signals are unreliable the farther boaters are from shore.

Another key item to check is the bilge pump system, if a boat is equipped with one. Rawls stressed the importance of inspecting the float switch, which activates the bilge pump if water is detected. Without a properly functioning float switch and bilge pump, a boater could end up in a great deal of trouble if the

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