Peak boating season is just around the corner and there may be more newbies out on the water.
During the pandemic, more people have sought outdoor spaces — including on the water. New boat sales in Washington were up 12% last year and the number of vessel registrations were the highest in 12 years, according to the Northwest Marine Trade Association.
“A lot of new people are out boating and paddling,” Rob Sendak, Washington State Parks boating program manager, said in a statement. “While boating is typically a safe activity, accidents do occur unexpectedly.”
Canoeing or kayaking can be a calming way to pass the day but they do come with risks. According to Washington State Parks, 22 people died in fatal boating accidents and six people went missing last year. About half those incidents occurred on nonmotorized vessels and 70% of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.
Next week is National Safe Boating Week. Here are some tips from Washington State Parks:
- Wear a life jacket. State law requires all vessels, including canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to have at least one properly fitted Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person onboard. All children 12 and younger are required to wear one.
- Take online or in-person courses to get a Washington State Boater Education Card.
- Have a U.S. Coast Guard or a member of the U.S. Power Squadron conduct a vessel safety check. A virtual one is also available.
- Carry two forms of communication that will work when wet. This can include a whistle, waterproof cellphone, a personal locator beacon or a marine radio.
- Skip the booze and drugs. Last year, three fatal accidents involved substances and in one case, a 16-year-old died.
- Use the National Weather Service and other resources to understand conditions, wave forecasts and tides. Avoid going on water during high winds or thunderstorms.
- Be wary of cold water shock. Many of Washington’s waters remain under 60 degrees year-round, which means going overboard may result in cold-water shock.