U.S. Coast Guard Letter

This letter was printed as a guest column in the March 9, 2005 edition of the Rome News-Tribune. It is not available online, but editorial page editor, Pierre Noth, was kind enough to send me an electronic copy so that I could post it here. Given the important safety issues discussed and the author, I felt that it was worthy of its own thread.

Allow me to preface this letter with a personal expression of appreciation and admiration for the efforts and diligence of the United States Coast Guard.

Capt. Dan Neptun is group commander of Coast Guard Group St. Petersburg.


Guest Columnist

ON BEHALF of the Coast Guard Group St. Petersburg, our deepest sympathy and prayers go out to the friends and families of the young Americans who recently lost their lives in the Gulf of Mexico, and I sincerely hope that their loss provides an opportunity for others to become more aware of the challenges and risks we face when making preparations for a day of boating on the open water.

I also want to thank your reporters for their research in gathering the facts for their im-portant stories about the tragic loss of these two teenage boys during a canoeing trip in the Gulf of Mexico offshore of the Suwannee River. Only a few take the initiative to find an expansive variety of sources to teach impor-tant survival lessons in the wake of such a heartbreaking search and rescue case, and their report-ing was on the mark.

I’d like to expand upon those survival lessons for your readers by highlighting some great refer-ences for canoeing and kayaking safety as well as discuss some general safety tips for all boaters.

A helpful article from U.S. Canoe Association was reprinted at www.boatwashington.org/canoe_ kayak_safety.htm after a similar accident four years ago, and it is a great reference for anyone planning to get underway on a canoe or kayak voyage. For anyone specifically paddling in the Big Bend area, the Wildlife Foundation of Florida offers (at

wildlifefoundationofflorida.com) a publication titled Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail that offers safety tips, navigational information and other pointers for that specific area.

FLORIDA IS a magnet for recreational boaters of all varieties and sizes, year-round. There are many tips that everyone should follow to ensure their safety and comfort as well as a successful search and rescue if ever in need.

In short, for a safe day of boating: File a float plan. Let someone know exactly where you are go-ing, what routes you are taking and when you will return. If you aren’t home as scheduled, have that person contact the Coast Guard immediately.

Check the weather forecast before getting under way and regularly while under way. Venture out onto open water as a fully informed boater, aware of weather forecasts, environmental conditions, and equipped to meet these variables, always focused on safety, not chance. Do not hesitate to turn around or abort a day of boating on the open water if environmental conditions ex-ceed your expectations and capabilities.

Have emergency equipment on board, such as a VHF-FM radio-telephone, an EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon) or a PEPIRB (personal emer-gency position indicating ra-dio beacon) and flares, to convey or signal your distress if necessary.

OFTEN OVERLOOKED are other essentials such as a fully charged spare starting battery, extra fuel, a flashlight and mirror, a first-aid kit, extra clothing, and food and water. The Coast Guard strongly recommends having charts and a global positioning device on board and knowing how to use these items.

Always wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device because you never know when you’ll need it.

Conduct a risk assessment and plan your routes and destinations wisely. Is your boat rated to handle the weather conditions? How experienced are you with your boat and familiar with the area? How many people aboard your boat could navigate it safely if you were incapacitated? Will your VHF-FM radiotelephone work as far offshore as you intend to travel?

Taking a low-cost boating safety course offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the U.S. Power Squadrons is also a great boost for boating smartly and safely. Their websites, templates for float plans, complete boater’s pre-departure checklists, EPIRB registration forms, storm guid-ance and forecasts can be found at www.d7publicaffairs.com un-der helpful links.

THE U. S. COAST Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Con-servation Commission, and our county and local maritime partners enjoy saving lives, but we’d feel even greater satisfaction in knowing that lives were not in peril in the first place because a boater took the time to become well informed about safe boating practices and became more aware of the perils at sea, and then chose to properly prepare for a day of boating on the open water.

Thank you very much for that. Here’s an updated link to the Canoe and Kayak safety article mentioned:


Also, I came across this excellent article on hypothermia. Putting together a hypothermia kit could be a lifesaver this time of the year in Florida and elsewhere:


Something my ACA trainer told me
First of all, thank you for sharing this.

One of my trainers told me something that is suggested in this article. He said that no matter how much preparation and how excited everyone is about an outting, everyone involved has to be willing to turn around and go home if the conditions or the forecast don’t look right. Of course, nobody will know if the “go home” decision was life saving, but this has to be okay with everyone. A “let’s just do it anyway” decision could be life threatening.


Coast Gaurd
I led a trip of CG memembers on a 3-day trip in the San Juan Islands a few years ago. One of the CG staff who worked rescues told me the phrase “Let’s go for it” is usually the last thing said before boaters needed CG help.


The Redneck’s Famous Last Words…
Watch this, Bubba!

'cuda you forgot “hold my beer”