Shocking Lack of Safety Gear During Coast Guard Rescues and Boardings

We realize that a lot of these boats weren’t all that far offshore, but that doesn’t mean that you should head out without the appropriate safety gear. No VHFs, and 16 violations in 19 boardings — really?! Boating is a lot of fun, but it can take a drastic turn for the worse if you aren’t well prepared.

Crewmembers from U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape Cod Canal responded to four search-and-rescue cases and conducted 19 vessel boardings over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

On Friday, crewmembers responded to a disabled vessel three miles east of the entrance of the canal in Cape Cod Bay. Aboard were two adults, two children and a dog. No injuries were reported.

On Saturday, crewmembers responded to two more disabled vessels three miles northeast of the east entrance of the Cape Cod Canal. One vessel had three people aboard and another had two. No injuries were reported.

On Sunday, Station Cape Cod Bay crews responded to an electrical space fire on the 42-foot fishing vessel Silver Star, homeported in Plymouth, Mass.

A Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and a Station Cape Cod Canal 41-foot boat crew responded. The Plymouth harbormaster towed the Silver Star to Plymouth Harbor.

All but one of the above cases were called in using a cellular phone through a third party because the vessels did not have a marine-band VHF radio aboard. VHF radios allow Coast Guard crews and other responders to receive accurate, real-time information and use technologies that can identify the source location of a radio call-out.

In addition to these cases, Station Cape Cod Canal crews conducted 19 safety boardings over the weekend. Of the 19 boardings, boarding officers issued 16 violations.

  • Four violations for not having a Type IV throw-able flotation device
  • Two violations for not having a sound-producing device
  • Three violations for not having valid boat registration
  • Four violations for not having visual distress signals, such as flares
  • Three violations for missing or non-operational fire extinguishers

All of the vessels without the operational fire extinguishers had their voyages terminated.

“I’m extremely proud of the work my crews did this weekend, but concerned about what we saw,” said Chief Petty Officer Robert Holland, officer in charge, Station Cape Cod Canal. “With the water and air temperatures falling, boaters need to be prepared.”

“Dont rely on cell phones working at sea,” Holland said. “Use a marine-band VHF radio and have all of your required safety equipment readily available at all times.”

Boaters can schedule a free vessel safety examination from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or the U.S. Power Squadron. Both agencies also offer a variety of boating safety courses as well.

Courtesy of

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