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Fireworks New Boating Safety Concern

Two North American countries celebrate their independence from British rule this week.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Fourth of July is traditionally recreational boating’s busiest time of year. With COVID-19, it certainly won’t be the same. The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has a few boating safety reminders just in time for the holiday.

Booze and BUI

Your passengers become your responsibility as soon as you pull away from the dock. Think twice about loading up the boat with a cooler full of beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks. Booze is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

“Just because the captain is sober doesn’t mean alcohol should be free-flowing aboard your boat,” said Ted Sensenbrenner, BoatUS Foundation’s assistant director of Boating Safety. “The stressors of a hot sun, wind and waves all day when combined with alcohol can intensify the effects of inebriation, increasing the risk of a passenger slip or fall overboard or worse. Save the alcohol for celebrating after you have safely returned home for the night.”

You won’t be out on the water alone. Operation Dry Water will heighten BUI awareness and enforcement during the three-day weekend of July 3−5, and law enforcement officers will be on alert for those violating boating-under-the-influence laws. Agencies from all 50 states will participate for increased enforcement.


Sailors must follow social-distancing guidelines, but that’s not the only COVID-related concern. Most local community fireworks displays have been canceled this year, so some boaters may wish to put on their own fireworks show and take to the water with pyrotechnics. “With gallons of fuel aboard and other flammable materials, you would be truly risking lives,” said Sensenbrenner. “It’s not worth the risk. There is no safe place aboard a boat suitable for using fireworks.”

Many counties and municipalities ban DIY fireworks, but stands pop up in rural communities at this time of year as fundraisers for nonprofits.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Those of us following Coast Guard requirements for flares, and especially those of us carrying the mandated equipment for offshore racing, have already loaded up our boats with dangerous pyrotechnics! But don’t fire off your expired flares for Fourth of July fun either — that would be illegal, dangerous and just plain wrong.

Box of flares
Yes, you have to carry these pyrotechnics aboard your boat. But don’t fire them off unless you are in need of rescue.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Latitude 38 offices will be closed this Friday, July 3, in observance of Independence Day. We wish everyone a safe and fun Fourth of July weekend. And, to our readers north of the border, Happy Canada Day!

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