About 5,000 boaters are expected to request some type of on-the-water assistance this holiday weekend as the country braces for the busiest day of the year for recreational boaters, according to the Boat Owners Association of the United States.
Now through Labor Day is the height of boating season in the Chicago area and with it comes the chance for serious accidents. Two people died and a third went missing in separate boating accidents last weekend, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
A 15-foot fishing boat capsized on the Little Calumet River near East 127th Street and South Michigan Avenue. The Coast Guard found one boater dead and later suspended the search for a second boater believed to be missing.
Several hours later, two people fell off a sailboat in Dusable Harbor at 401 N. Lake Shore Drive, authorities said. Both were rescued but one of the boaters was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
In both cases, high winds were reported in the area.
This holiday weekend, Jack Manley of TowBoatU.S. Chicago advises boaters to keep an eye on fuel-hungry generators as well as battery charge levels, but alcohol and excessive speed after dark are safety issues.
Here are Five Lessons Learned about July 4th boating from the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety:
1. Plan Ahead: Ensure you have enough fuel; make sure all navigation lights and hand held spotlights are in working order. It’s a good idea to check the engine and mechanicals, such as fan belts, battery connections, fuel filters and engine fluids ahead of time. Don’t invite more guests aboard than your vessel can safely handle. Keep an ear to the weather forecast on VHF radio.
2. Avoid Alcohol: Combined with the effects of a hot sunny day, alcohol will leave an operator impaired when they can least afford it – navigating at night in heavy boating traffic. It’s okay to party – just save it until after you’ve put the boat to bed and you’re back at the dock, homeport or beach (dry land). The captain is also ultimately responsible for everyone’s safety aboard.
3. Life Jackets: Ensure kids have the right sized life jacket, and it would be wise to have the crew wear life jackets on the way home after the show. For adults, inflatable life jackets will keep you safe without compromising comfort.
4. Navigation: Know where any security zones exist. Go slow, post extra lookouts, and don’t make sudden course changes unless necessary. When departing an anchorage pay attention to other vessel’s anchor lines and understand where they lie just below the water’s surface. Never take a shortcut home after dark.
5. Chill: Don’t let crowded harbors or long boat ramp lines get you down. Simply prepare for a wonderful evening of fireworks, knowing it will take you a while to get safely home. Having lots of patience and giving lots of courtesy will make it memorable.
If you or someone you love is seriously injured or killed in a boating accident, there are things you can do to help protect your rights. The Chicago personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free appointments to discuss your case. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.