San Rafael, CA – The Marin County coast might be one of the most beautiful places in the world, but it can be dangerous as well. Locals and international tourists flock to the Pacific for recreation every day of the year because of its stunning scenic vistas, sandy beaches, 800-foot high cliffs, and proximity to the water. Boating, sailing, surfing, fishing, scuba diving, swimming, and other activities are popular off Marin’s coast and in the bays, but they can be drastically affected by quickly changing winds, swells, currents, visibility and water temperatures.
Local first responders regularly train for water rescues. More than 50 Marin County Fire personnel are certified rescue swimmers.
During the National Safe Boating Week
, which this year is May 18-24,
the Marin County Fire Department
(MCFD) is promoting boating safety.
MCFD is working with the California Division of Boating and Waterways, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. National Park Service to emphasize the importance of safety measures before people get into a small boat, kayak or canoe. Tomales Bay has been the location of many rescues because of its tricky sandbars, unpredictable wind changes and surprising whitecaps. The State of California Department of Boating and Waterways and the National Park Service both provide safe boating tips for those visiting Tomales Bay. The Park Service also offers local tide tables and maps for visitors to the Point Reyes National Seashore.
“Our No. 1 recommendation is to always wear a lifejacket,” said Battalion Chief Bret McTigue, who leads MCFD’s Water Rescue Team. “Before you go out on the water, take time to study up on weather conditions, winds, tides and currents. Prepare for the trip by sharing your plan with a family member and have the proper equipment with you.”
MCFD often partners with the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. National Park Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the California Highway Patrol, and neighboring first-responder agencies on its rescues.
One of the most important reminders is that personal flotation devices must be worn at all times. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2017 and that 84.5 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
With only a few exceptions, under California law:
- Every child under 13 years of age on a moving recreational vessel of any length must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the conditions and the activity.
- A Coast Guard-approved life jacket must be carried for each person on board a boat less than 16 feet long, or a canoe or a kayak of any length. If stored, the life jackets must be shown to passengers and readily available.
- A floatation device designed for throwing — such as a ring, cushion, or horseshoe buoy – must be carried on boats 16 feet or longer in addition to the requirements for smaller vessels.
“We’re hoping that people will remind each other about these rules because they save lives,” McTigue said.