The US Coast Guard is reminding seafarers to exercise caution and navigate safely when boating in cooler temperatures, as there may be hidden dangers aboard a ship.
Coast Guard observers in Key West received a report on January 3rd from a Good Samaritan that eight people on board a pleasure craft near Garrison Bight were unconscious. It was reported that an exhaust fan in the bilge room allowed the accumulation of potential carbon monoxide to levels high enough to affect occupants.
A crew from the Key West Fire Boat responded, safely getting the eight people aboard their ship and transporting them back ashore to wait for ambulance for further medical attention.
« This reported incident appears to be a very close call, » said Petty Officer 1st Class Evans Ahrens, a controller with the Sector Key West Operations Unit. « People should be careful about using generators or heating elements that they may rarely use, especially for those living on board their ship. »
The Coast Guard urges the public to follow these safety tips:
• Check the weather and water temperature. Do this before you set off and keep monitoring throughout your trip. The weather can change very quickly and you should keep an eye on the forecasted conditions. The National Meteorological Service regularly sends sea weather forecasts. Forecasts can be obtained by tuning channels 1 through 5 on a marine VHF radio or on the NWS website at www.weather.gov.
• Create a float plan. Leave a detailed float plan with a friend or family member who will stay on shore again. The sooner a party can be reported as overdue, the more likely a positive outcome is. Facts must be conveyed quickly in an emergency. Your float plan should include information that rescue workers need to find you. For examples of a float plan, see www.floatplancentral.org.
• Have a marine radio. A VHF FM radio on channel 16 is the best method of communication on the water. While cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in the coverage area or a dead battery.
• Have an EPIRB. Always go out with a beacon that indicates an emergency location. An EPIRB is a device that sends a distress signal to rescue workers via a satellite system.
• Wear a life jacket. They help keep your head afloat if you fall overboard. They also hold heat in the core areas of your body, increasing the chances of survival in cold water by hours.
• Never drive under the influence of boats. Boating under the influence or boating while intoxicated is just as deadly as drinking and driving. It is illegal in any state to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Penalties for violating BUI / BWI laws can include heavy fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and prison terms. Alcohol consumption is the most well-known factor in fatal boating accidents.
• Download the free Coast Guard app. The app focuses on recreational boating and has a float plan function, the ability to check weather reports from the nearest NOAA buoys, a function to call for help in emergencies and much more. It is currently available for free on iOS and Android devices: https://uscgboating.org/mobile/
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