As the summer heats up and boaters take to the water, the Coast Guard is responding to an increased number of preventable incidents and Good Samaritans are lending a hand.

“Most drowning and near-drowning incidents are preventable, if people used proper precautions,” said Capt. Olav Saboe, commander of Coast Guard Sector North Bend. “To reduce the risk of drowning, it is important for boaters to wear a life-jacket at all times. You may not have a chance to put it on, if and when a sudden emergency strikes.”

This comes in response to a recent incident in which a halibut angler fell overboard without a lifejacket while fishing alone, 14 miles west of Newport, Ore., May 29. 

He was forced to tread water, fully clothed, in frigid conditions, until help arrived and without a life jacket, his chances of survival were extremely low.

Luckily, the man had a handheld VHF radio attached to his person. He used it to contact the Coast Guard as well as a nearby vessels.

The Coast Guard launched all available assets just minutes after the MAYDAY call came in. However, it was a Good Samaritan that reached the angler first and pulled him from the water before he succumbed to the disastrous situation.

“That case highlights the importance of the Maritime Rescue Doctrine,” said Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Molloy, commanding officer of Station Yaquina Bay. “Good Samaritans are very often the first to arrive on-scene and the Coast Guard encourages responsible action.” 

Coast Guard crew members aboard the four 52-foot Motor Life Boats; Victory, Invincible, Triumph, and Intrepid; maneuver into formation as they transit through Yaquina Bay, Ore., April 9, 2019. The 52-foot MLBs are purpose built craft designed to tackle the harshest surf conditions that the treacherous waters of the Pacific Northwest have to offer. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor Lilburn.

A Good Samaritan is the operator of a private vessel who renders voluntary aid, without compensation, to a person who is injured or to a vessel in danger.

Good Samaritans are expected to exercise reasonable care, to avoid negligent conduct which might worsen the position of the victims, and to avoid reckless and wanton conduct in performing the rescue.

“It is extremely important, that if you hear a MAYDAY call over the radio, that you remain silent, listen, and write down or record any information you hear,” said Molloy. “The most important information is going to be location, location, location. Coordinates, latitude, longitude, geographical reference points. If the initial call is too weak to reach Coast Guard watchstanders, you may have to relay everything you just heard.”

Coast Guard crew members aboard four 52-foot Motor Life Boats and one 47-foot Motor Life Boat transit in formation outbound of Yaquina Bay, Ore., April 9, 2019. The four 52-foot MLBs are the only active vessels of their kind and the crews are assigned to different units across the Pacific Northwest, which is why having all four together for the roundup was a rare occurrence. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor Lilburn.

Some recent search and rescue cases that the Coast Guard responded to have involved solo boaters.

Taking to the water in any craft alone is extremely dangerous and the Coast Guard recommends never going out without a partner.

Along with using the buddy system, it’s always safer to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

The Coast Guard makes this easy by offering a free application which you can download onto your mobile device.

Use the mobile app to file a float plan. It also includes navigation rules, contact information, buoy information, vessel requirements, and lifejacket recommendations.

Coast Guard crew members aboard the 52-foot Motor Life Boat Triumph haul a training dummy from the water during a man overboard exercise in Yaquina Bay, Ore., April 9, 2019. The Triumph is homeported at Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, Washington, and is operated along a stretch of the Columbia River known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor Lilburn.

The Coast Guard recommends keeping a waterproof marine radio on you, in case your mobile device runs out of battery, service range, or if you accidentally drop it into the water while trying to take a selfie.

A VHF radio may also help mariners stay informed of Urgent Marine Information Broadcasts (UMIB).

A UMIB is used to alert potential Good Samaritans, in an area where there is a vessel in distress.

Federal statute, 46 USC 2304, requires a master to render assistance if the master can do so without serious danger to master’s vessel or individuals on board.

Coast Guard crew members aboard the 52-foot Motor Life Boat Intrepid conduct a man overboard training exercise during the 52 Roundup in Yaquina Bay, Ore., April 9, 2019. The 52-foot MLB is capable of hauling out of the water and carrying to safety up to 40 survivors at a time. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor Lilburn.

“Good Samaritans save lives,” said Saboe. “But responsible boating saves more. Mariners need to remember their safe boating etiquette.”

Coast Guard crew members aboard the 52-foot Motor Life Boat Triumph take a moment to discuss the actions taken during a previously conducted man overboard drill in Yaquina Bay, Ore., April 9, 2019. The Triumph, homeported at Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, Washington, was taken to Station Yaquina Bay for the 52-foot Motor Life Boat Roundup.

SAFE BOATING ETIQUETTE

• Make sure your craft and all safety equipment are in good working order before you get on the water. That includes your lifejacket. Make sure it fits well, and wear it at all times.

• Do not consume drugs or alcohol when operating a boat. Not only is it against the law, but it is one of the most common causes of boating accidents.

• Plan ahead so everyone in the boat knows what their roll will be in case of an accident.

• Make sure that everyone in the boat is on the lookout for potential dangers, not just the driver. Let the driver know if you see anything of concern. Do not assume he has spotted the coming danger.

• Anyone operating a boat in Oregon or Washington is required to have a state-issued, valid boaters-operator card.

• Learn the “rules of the road” and when on the water, follow them.

For more information, visit the Oregon Marine Board Safety page at: www.oregon.gov/osmb/boater-info/Pages/Safety-and-Education.aspx

For the Coast Guard Mobile App visit: https://uscgboating.org/mobile/