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The U.S. Coast Guard checks boater safety during Memorial Day Weekend


Memorial Day Weekend is historically one of the busiest of the year for boaters.

Though their impressive sight can be daunting to smaller boats, the U.S. Coast Guard patrols the water not to intimidate, but to make sure everyone boats safely during the holiday weekend.

"We're not bad guys. We just want to make them safe out here," said Elizabeth Koonce, with the New Orleans Coast Guard.

Saturday, the crew's first boat they checked had a family with a small child.

Koonce tried to make the family feel comfortable when they pulled up along side them.

"How's it going captain, how are you today?" she said. "Have you ever been boarded by the Coast Guard before?"

Many times, one of the first things they'll check is that all children are wearing life vests.

"Any time you're under way though sir, she's got to wear it. Anybody under the age of 16," Koonce told the boat driver.

The driver got a warning.

"His daughter did not have her life jacket on at the time, however that was a quick fix. And education is key, especially a lot of people don't know this stuff or forget, so I went ahead and educated him on why she needed to have her life jacket on," said Koonce.

According to the Coast Guard's website, "The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that life jackets could have saved the lives of over 80 percent of boating fatality victims."

Flares and radios are also important, especially if a boat dies, and riders can't charge their phones.

"Their phone can die or we can lose communications with them and it pushes them up as far as a distressed situation where we have to launch," said Koonce.

During Memorial Day last year, one Coast Guard crew checked more than 80 boats, covering a lot of water.

"Because our area of responsibility is so huge, it puts us in different parts of that area of responsibility, and makes it if a search and rescue case were to come up in there it's a quicker response time for anybody in the area," said Koonce.

Most boats don't try to speed away when the Coast Guard approaches. With 1650 total horsepower on board, the crew said, there's a good chance they'll catch up to most boaters.

The Coast Guard heads to the most popular spots throughout the weekend, to check safety equipment and so they can be easily accessible if there's an emergency.

"With everybody out here, we just want to make sure everybody is safe," said Koonce.

For U.S. Coast Guard boating safety checklists click here.

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