Coast Guard Station Rockland Commander CWO Sebastian Arnsdorf said he was surprised June 8 to get a report of a couple on a Jet Ski near Carvers Harbor the night before.

“They were wearing jeans, T-shirts and life jackets,” he said. “The water temperature was between 52 and 54 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Arnsdorf said emergencies in or near Penobscot Bay are handled by Maine Marine Patrol, municipal harbormasters, good Samaritans and the Coast Guard.

“Last year we had multiple boat fires, collisions and groundings,” he said. “There is potential for serious injury, loss of property and loss of life.”

Be ready before leaving the dock

Boaters should know the operational requirements of their craft and the rules of the road, he said. Different types of boats are regulated in different ways. Arnsdorf said the best way to learn what safety gear is needed for a specific boat, and what rules apply to that type of craft, is to visit the federal Boating Safety Resource Center website at uscgboating.org. In addition to ongoing updates, the site offers a virtual vessel safety check, information about boating safety courses, a downloadable copy of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation and other resources.

Boaters should always carry a communication device, such as a VHF radio or cell phone, and have the following phone numbers available.

  • USCG Station Rockland — 596-6667
  • Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 15 Commander Peter Murray — 594-5651
  • Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 15 Vice Commander Paulette Stewart — 441-4234
  • Station Rockland monitors VHF Channel 16

Callers may dial 911 if they are unable to make contact with Station Rockland or the auxiliary.

Get a safety check

Arnsdorf said Coast Guard Auxiliary classes were a good way to learn about safe boating. Arnsdorf recommended interested parties contact auxiliary Commander Peter Murray to get on a notification list for upcoming programs.

The auxiliary also offers free vessel examinations, to ensure boats meet all state and federal safety requirements before getting underway.

“The auxiliary are not law enforcement,” said Arnsdorf. “They will give you a list of what’s needed. If [boaters] choose not to get an exam and the Coast Guard boards them, they could get a violation ticket.” He said severe infractions, such as not having a life vest for each person on board, would lead to having the voyage terminated and the boat escorted to the nearest safe haven.

In addition to life jackets, boats should be equipped with visual distress signals.

Details on necessary equipment are in the booklet “A Boaters Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats,” available at the Boating Safety Resource Center website and at Station Rockland.

Kayakers asked to give contact information

Arnsdorf urged kayakers to get a Paddle Safe packet and to use the enclosed identification sticker that provides those finding an unattended kayak with owner contact information.

“People pull up on the beach and the tide comes up,” he said. “Then the kayak is adrift and the Coast Guard doesn’t know if a life is in danger.”

Last minute safety check

On the day of a trip, boaters should draw up a float plan, listing places they expect to go and the time they anticipate returning. That plan should be left with a friend or relative on shore.

Check the batteries in the phone or VHF radio, and look at a current weather forecast, Arnsdorf advised. The website at gomoos.org provides local wind, wave and tide information.

Weather conditions can change rapidly, even in sheltered bays and harbors, and boaters should make sure to bring appropriate clothing.

Power boaters should have an extra “kill” switch along, in case the person carrying the main switch goes overboard. All boaters should make sure any drain plugs are in place before launching.

Once underway, all boaters are encouraged to keep life jackets on. Federal law requires all children under the age of 13 to wear a life jacket at all times when they are aboard a boat.

Finally, Arnsdorf cautioned the operators of all watercraft to refrain from drinking alcohol.

“It’s OK for the people on the boat to drink,” he said. “It’s not OK for the person operating the boat to be intoxicated.”

“People are generally not as good at operating a boat as they are their cars,” said Arnsdorf. He said being exposed to the elements adds to operator fatigue. “A lot of people forget this is the ocean and view it like a lake.”

“If you are involved in a marine accident, you are required by law to contact the Coast Guard,” he said. He said it was a good idea for people to notify authorities if they see anything, such as a floating life jacket, that might indicate a mishap at sea.

“If they do all these things, the only other suggestion is that they enjoy themselves,” said Arnsdorf.

Station Rockland is located at 54 Tillson Ave. in Rockland.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at sauciello@villagesoup.com.