Back in 1949, a Coast Guard Auxiliary member named Steve Sadowski pitched the idea for a national Courtesy Marine Examination to promote safe boating and understanding the simple steps that boaters can take to protect themselves and their passengers out on the water.

Sadowski’s efforts led to the creation of National Safe Boating Week, which is now held every May in the week before Memorial Day.

More than 10 percent of American households now own some kind of boat, so taking the time to think about and take active steps to make boating safer for all makes a lot of sense. The statistics are rather grim: According to the U.S. Coast Guard in 2019 there were 4,168 boating accidents in the US, resulting in 613 deaths and 2,559 injuries, The leading cause of death in boating accidents is accidental drowning; and 86% of the individuals who drowned were NOT wearing lifejackets.

The good news is that preventing accidents and injuries when boating is pretty simple. Steps everyone can (and should) take include:

  • Lifejackets. Everyone on board (right down to the kids and the family dog) should wear a personal flotation device at all times. Accidents are called accidents because you never see them coming. Wearing a lifejacket is a very simple and effective tool to prevent death and serious injury from getting tossed into the water.
  • Weather forecasts.  Especially here in Colorado, summertime storms can develop and attack on the Front Range lakes almost without warning with high winds, rain and hail, and thunder and lightning. Pay attention to the meteorologists and make sure you have a plan for a safe haven every time you go out on the water.
  • Maps and charts. One way to make sure you can get to a place of safety is to have an updated map or chart of the place where you are boating. This is especially important if you are visiting one of our Colorado lakes or reservoirs you are not familiar with. Safe boating is informed boating.
  • Emergency communications.  Take your smart phone and make sure it’s charged. Test your onboard radio so you can contact other boaters nearby or issue a MayDay. Listen for Coast Guard weather alerts or other warnings. 
  • Boat sober.  Everybody loves to get out on the water and kick back. But don’t kick back so much, with alcohol or recreational drugs, so much that you are incapacitated. Or even mildly buzzed. In an emergency, you’ll need all your wits about you.
  • Wear your engine cut-off.  Most boats these days are required to have an engine cut-off switch, usually attached to a lanyard. So if you get thrown or tossed into the water, you can stop the engine. Always wear your lanyard. It’s a basic rule of boating that the one time you forget to wear it, is the time you’ll need it.

This year, National Safe Boating Week will kick off with a fun promotion: Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day, on Friday May 17th. Wear your life jacket at your place of work, have someone snap a photo and post it on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram.  If someone from the National Safe Boating Week program notices, you could win swag from the Safe Boating Campaign, including T-shirts, dry bags, first-aid kits, stickers and more. 

Here at Colorado Boat Center, we always take our customers’ safety seriously, since we want you to stay around and be our customers for a long, long time! So we stand ready to help you upgrade your lifejacket inventory, make sure your communications and mapping electronics are working properly, and help you install that engine cut-off switch. 

Please come see us during National Safe Boating Week, May 18-24, or anytime during the boating season and we’ll help you make your boat safe for you and your family.