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National Safe Boating Week begins May 22

The week kicks off with a new law in place this year
Coast Guard rescues crew from stranded boat.
Coast Guard rescues crew from stranded boat.(KTUU)
Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 3:40 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - May 22 marks the first day of the annual National Safe Boating Week. For this year, there’s a new law in place to help increase safety out on the water.

On April 1, the U.S. Coast Guard started implementing a new federal law put in place by Congress requiring operators of recreational vessels that are 26 feet in length or shorter, with three horsepower or more that were built after January 1, 2020, to have an engine cut-off switch.

“An engine cut-off switch is a really important piece of equipment,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa Mckenzie with the U.S. Coast Guard. “It is definitely affordable, you can buy one for $8 or $10 at your local marine store or even online. This is really a preventative safety device in the event that the operator is ejected from their vessel, this will automatically cut off the engine and it will be dead in the water, and this is really to prevent runaway skiff situations.”

According to Mckenzie, in the last two months in Alaska there have been two known cases where operators were not wearing an associated lanyard with their engine cut-off switch and were ejected from their vessels. She said one of those incidents resulted in a fatality.

“So this really is an essential piece of equipment for safety. It’s also a federal requirement,” Mckenzie said.

The Coast Guard advises people make sure to put on a life jacket before heading out on the water.

“The number one way to promote survival at sea is to be wearing a life jacket when you get on the boat, especially in Alaskan waters,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Nathan Littlejohn. “That is going to enhance your chances of survival.”

The Coast Guard is also urging people to not operate boats while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“We do see a lot of activity with Memorial Day weekend and unfortunately a lot of that activity involves unsafe boating practices around alcohol use and drug use, so it’s really important that you protect not only yourselves and the people on your vessel, but everybody else in the water and be responsible and boat sober,” Mckenzie said.

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