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Eighth District Recreational Boating Safety (dpa)

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Recreational Boating Safety
Eighth Coast Guard District
500 Poydras St Suite 1331
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 671-2105

Recreational Boating Safety

Welcome to the Eighth District Recreational Boating Safety Site.

This page is intended to serve as a general resource for recreational boating safety information. Should an issue or topic you have no be addressed here, feel free to contact Ed Huntsman, the District Recreational Boating Safety Program manager, via email or by telephone at (504) 671-2148.

Do not let the temperature outside fool you. Cold water immersion and hypothermia can occur in water as cool as 70 degrees at any time of the year. Even on a warm and sunny day a sudden and unexpected fall into cold water for as little as 30 minutes can result in hypothermia - and if you're not wearing a life jacket can even lead to a life-threatening situation in as little as three to five minutes.

Wearing life jackets saves lives - Wear yours!

Most, if not all, boating-safety education professionals agree that the one single thing that would contribute the most to reducing deaths and saving lives would be wearing life jackets. Statistics show time and time again that many boating fatalities could have been avoided if the victim had only been wearing a life jacket. Wearing a life jacket while boating is like wearing a seat belt when driving or riding in a car. Wear one anytime you are on a boat or even near the water or on a boat dock. And, with the new inflatable life jacket technology in the marketplace, a variety of life jackets are available for those over the age of 16 that are not bulky, hot or uncomfortable. Don’t forget that for those boaters who are 12 years of age or younger, the law requires them to wear a life jacket (properly sized, fitted and worn to the manufacturer’s specifications) any time they’re on a boat that is underway (not at anchor, made fast to the shore or aground) — even when launching or retrieving your boat.

Without a life jacket, most people die LONG BEFORE they become hypothermic.

If you suddenly find yourself in the water, stay calm and move slowly. Don't try to take off clothing in the water (a common misconception is that heavy clothing or waders weigh down your body when in fact can trap air and help keep your body afloat).


Within three minutes of immersion:
     Gasping, hyperventilation and panic
     If not wearing a life jacket, a higher risk of drowning


Within 30 minutes of immersion:
     Cooling of arms and legs impairs sensation and function regardless of swimming ability
     If not wearing a life jacket, a higher risk of drowning


After at least 30 minutes of immersion:
     Gradual cooling of the body's core temperature eventually results in loss of useful conciousness
     If wearing a life jacket, survival time may be extended

Wearing your life jacket could be the single most important factor in surviving cold water immersion

Capsizing, swamping, and falling overboard are the leading causes of cold water immersion. Capsizing and swamping are often caused by:

  • Overloading or poorly secured or shifting loads
  • Improper boat handling
  • Loss of power or ability to steer
  • Anchoring from the stern
  • Wrapping a line around a drive unit
  • Taking a wave over the transom after a sudden stop

If your boat has capsized, stay with it. More than likely it will not sink and it can be used as a platform to maneuver, so stay on top of it as much as possible, getting yourself out of the water and maintaining stability.

Falling overboard is often due to slipping, loss of balance when standing, moving around the boat, or reaching for objects in the water.

Be prepared! A cold water immersion event is a fight for survival. If wearing a life jacket, the 1-10-1 Principle may save your life:

1 Minute - Get breathing under control

10 Minutes (or more) - For meaningful activity

  • Assess the situation and make a plan
  • Prioritize, and perform the most important functions first such as: Locate other party members
  • Self-rescue
  • Emergency communication and signaling

1 Hour (or more) - Of useful consciousness
Focus on slowing heat loss.

Every boater should carry (ON THEIR PERSON):

  • a communication device (i.e. handl-held water proof marine VHF radio, cell phone in a waterproof case)
  • emergency signaling devices (i.e. emergency locator beacon, whistle, mirror, small flares).
Always wear a life jacket when in an open boat or on an open deck. Trying to put your life jacket on in the water is extremely difficult (if not impossible) and costs precious time and energy.



All life jackets provide life-saving supplemental floatation in the water, but no one style is perfectly suited for all persons in all situations. Read the life jacket label. Make sure it is U.S. Coast Guard approved, the proper size for the intended user, and appropriate for the activity.

See the life jacket selector at Alaska's for more information.

For more information regarding cold water immersion and hypothermia, check out for some of the latest information dealing with this potentially deadly recreational boating issue.

Practice Safe Boating

  • Prevent capsizing - Reduce speed in rough water, load carefully, secure loads from shifting, and adjust for changing conditions. Wait for poor weather to improve.
  • Prevent falls overboard - Remain seated while underway, wear non-skid foot wear, and avoid reaching overboard for objects.
  • Equip the boat - Boats should be equipped or designed wiht a reboarding device.
  • File a float plan - Leave it with a friend or relative. Include a description of your boat and equipment, names of passengers, planned destination and route, expected return and when and who to call if overdue.
  • Brief passengers - Everyone should know where all safety equipment is (and how to use it), and how to start, stop and steer the boat.

Boater education saves lives - Take a boating safety education course!

Get, be and stay prepared: Statistics show that more than 80 percent of those involved in boating fatalities have never taken a boating safety course or had any other type of formal boating education. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has excellent volunteer instructors who offer numerous classes across the state throughout the year. These classes offer introductory and basic information in such subject areas as different boat types, things you need to know before getting underway, how to tow and operate your boat correctly, legal requirements, basic weather, boating emergencies and what to do as well as other interesting subject areas about boats and boating. The department’s instructors are eager, able and ready to help you learn more about operating your boat safely and proficiently. And in most cases, these classes are offered free of charge. Once you complete the brief introductory eight hour course, check with your insurance agent as most companies offer a reduced insurance premium to educated boat owners and operators. National Association of State Boating Law Administrator (NASBLA) certified courses are also offered by other organizations such as the Red Cross, Power Squadron, Coast Guard Auxiliary, The Maritime Institute of San Diego (with courses in Arizona), and other boating organizations.

Safe boats save lives - Get a free Vessel Safety Check!

Boats that are properly equipped, in good operating condition, and safe from hazards are less likely to be involved in accidents and fatalities. While the law doesn’t require certain items or supplies such as an anchor, visual distress signals or other safety equipment on inland lakes, Federal requirements on the Colorado River are more stringent and demanding. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Power Squadron or local law-enforcement officers would be happy to check your boat for you. Contact representatives of the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron to request a free Vessel Safety Check by visiting and clicking on "I WANT A VSC." Learn what you need to have to make sure your boat is always seaworthy and ready to go.

Sober boating saves lives - Avoid alcohol and other drus while on or near the water!

Approximately 40 percent of all boating fatalities involve the use of alcohol. If you are drunk and get into an accident on the water, but are fortunate enough to survive, you will likely suffer financial and personal consequences such as large fines and the possible loss of automobile driving privileges. Drugs and alcohol don't just impact the boat operator; passengers who have been drinking alcohol, for example, are 10 times more likely to fall overboard. And, if they aren’t wearing life jackets, possibly face drowning. You hear it all the time: Water and alcohol don't mix! Arizona is a zero-tolerance state and that means any boat operator impaired to the slightest degree could be arrested. Don’t risk a great day on the water—keep a good day good and go home safe.

Following these four basic boating tips will help keep you safe. The District hopes that you and your loved ones enjoy boating during the years to come. Safe boating is no accident — keep a good day on the water good by following these four easy-to-follow basic principles.

Contact Information:

Edward Huntsman:
(504) 671-2148

Last Modified 12/26/2014