National Safe Boating Week Begins Saturday

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Boating safety advocates in the U.S. Virgin Islands will team up with their colleagues across the U.S. and Canada on Saturday to promote safe and responsible boating, including consistent lifejacket wear each and every time boaters are on the water.

National Safe Boating Week, which is celebrated May 17-23, is the official launch of the 2014 North American Safe Boating Campaign, according to U.S. Coast Guard USCG Auxiliary Flotilla 16-01 in Christiansted. The yearlong campaign will promote safe and responsible boating and emphasize the value of wearing a lifejacket.

“Every day I hear about the grim consequences of not wearing a lifejacket while boating,” said Rachel Johnson, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, the lead organization for the Wear It! campaign. “You can still have fun on the water while choosing to always wear a lifejacket and boating responsibly.”

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in almost 75 percent of recreational boating fatalities in 2012, and that 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing lifejackets. That’s why boating safety advocates continue to push for increased and consistent lifejacket wear on the water.

Today’s lifejackets are comfortable, stylish and easy to wear, the USCG Auxiliary said. In fact, they don’t even have to be jackets anymore. Old-fashioned, bulky orange lifejackets have been replaced with innovative options such as inflatable lifejackets that allow mobility and flexibility for such activities as boating, fishing, paddling or hunting, and are much cooler in the warmer weather.

There are styles made for anglers, hunters, skiers and other sports enthusiasts. One style even has a built-in walkie-talkie.

St. Croix will take part in getting the message across via "Wear it St. Croix," said Duane Minton, commander of the local flotilla. The auxiliary will join participants around the globe in celebrating the "Ready, Set, Wear-It" event at 10 a.m. Saturday at the St. Croix Yacht Club, followed by free vessel safety checks.

Last year 5,774 participants gathered at more than 185 events held around the world to set a new record for the number of participants who inflated their inflatable lifejacket or wore an inherently buoyant lifejacket. Members of the boating public – including anglers, hunters, paddlers, jet skiers and others who use boats – are encouraged to attend.

The St. Croix Coast Guard Resident Inspection office, Boat Forces and Auxiliary will partner with the VITEMA All Hands Emergency Preparedness Expo being held May 31 at the Frederiksted Pier. Recreational boating safety information will be provided along with tours of a Coast Guard cutter.

More information is available at the auxiliary’s website, http://a0701601.wow.uscgaux.info.

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