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Don’t Forget the Life Jacket

July 10, 2012

Large sails decorate Lake Memphremagog as sailors competed in a regatta Sunday. The Memphremagog Yacht Club sponsored the monthly race. In all, 11 boats started the race but two dropped out before the finish. Photo by Christopher Roy

NEWPORT CITY – A boat ride can be a very tranquil thing to do on a warm sunny day, but don’t let a delightful trip have a tragic ending.
“You have to be safe when you’re boating,” said Newport City Fire Chief Jamie LeClair Monday.
Boaters should know the water they are in and should tell someone where they are going. Boaters should not go out alone. They should be aware of the weather, which includes having a radio that receives broadcasts from the National Weather Service.
“If it starts clouding up, if there’s a chance of thunder showers or you see lightning, get off the lake,” said Chief LeClair.
Boaters should also have radios that receive commercial broadcast stations, a GPS, a cell phone and a marine band radio. Boaters should have blankets and a flashlight with extra batteries. There should be a Coast Guard approved life vest for each person on the boat. Children should not wear adult sized life vests.
“It’s not one-size-fits-all anymore,” said LeClair. “If they are faded or torn, they should be replaced.”
Boaters should check the life vests before every trip but, at a minimum, at least once a year. The check should include making sure all the clips are in place and the vests are not torn or faded. Faded vests means they are old and are not as effective as they were when new. 
The vests should be easily accessible by everyone on the boat and not kept in a bag or cabinet.
“The vests should be someplace so if there is an incident you can grab them and put them on immediately,” LeClair said. “If you have a fire on your boat, you don’t want to be looking for a life vest.”
Better yet, LeClair suggests that each person, kids at least, wear his or her life vest at all times. A floatable boat seat might be an option in an emergency, but it does not replace a life jacket. Each person on the boat should know how to swim.
Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1974, needs to take an online state boating class and test. Boaters should not drink alcohol while on the water. In fact, it's against the law to do so if you are operating a motorized boat.
“It’s no different than driving a car,” said LeClair. “If you’re impaired, you’re impaired. A lot of accidents with boats are caused by impaired drivers. Other accidents are caused by inexperienced boaters.”

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