The Northeast Coast Guard welcomes the 2017 boating season by warning everyone to be safe while on the water this summer.

National Safe Boating Week, May 21-26, marked the informal beginning of summer and Coast Guard crews throughout the Northeast are on patrol paying particular attention to recreational paddlecraft and boating safety while promoting safe boating and paddling practices.

The Coast Guard released its 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics report revealing boating fatalities nationwide totaled 701, an 11.3 percent increase from last year’s 626.

In the Northeast, recreational boating deaths increased from 34 in 2015 to 55 in 2016, which is a 62 percent increase from last year. Forty of the 55 people who died drowned and 29 of the 55 deaths involved a paddlecraft. Forty-five of the 55 people who died were not wearing a life jacket.

“With all the rainy weather and the water temperatures across New England still 60 and below, now is the time to prepare for the nice summer weather,” said Walt Taylor, recreational boating safety coordinator for the First Coast Guard District. “For example, ensure your inflatable life jackets function properly, flares and fire extinguishers are not past expiration dates, and strobe lights, personal locating beacons, and handheld VHF radios have fresh batteries.”

Some additional important boating safety measures that can save your life include:

  • Boat and paddle sober. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Refrain from using alcohol or other impairing substances when operating boats or other watercraft.
  • Always have a marine VHF radio on your boat, along with an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon) or PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) in case of emergency. Cell phones may not be dependable while out on the water.
  • Be sure you are not operating a boat or paddlecraft beyond your level of knowledge and handling skill. Operator inattention, boater and paddler inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
  • Take a boating safety course or get a free safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, You’ll have the peace of mind knowing your boat meets Federal and State standards, and in an emergency, you will have the necessary safety equipment.