This weekend kicks off the boating season from Ocean City to Deep Creek Lake, but already there have been several deaths in Maryland waters this year.
Late in April, two senior Eastern Shore fishermen drowned after their 19-foot boat capsized on the Manokin River near Oriole in Somerset County.
One victim, who was 72, was wearing a personal flotation device. The other victim, who was 65, was not.
In another early-season incident, two fishermen who set out from Solomons in a small boat for a day of angling drowned after high winds capsized their craft. They set out despite warnings from other fishermen at the launch ramp that the weather was expected to change.
Wednesday, in the middle of National Safe Boating Week, a Hagerstown man drowned after he, a companion and their new personal watercraft were swept over an 18-foot dam on the Potomac River.
As a continuation of safe boating week, federal, state and national boating organizations are promoting the Boat Smart From the Start national campaign.
"We would like boaters to 'Boat Smart From the Start' and make sure everyone on board wears their life jacket," said Maryland Natural Resources Police superintendent John W. Rhoads.
"Nationally, drowning is the cause of seven of every 10 boating fatalities. Most would have lived if they had been wearing their life jackets."
According to statistics from the National Safe Boating Council, each year about 700 people die in boating accidents. In 1996, more than 8,000 boating accidents resulted in more than 700 deaths nationwide.
"Our overall goal is to minimize the loss of life, personal injury, property damage and environmental impact associated with the use of recreational boats through preventive means, to maximize the safe use and enjoyment of the public waterways," said Coast Guard Rear Adm. James D. Hull.
"The Coast Guard and our partners are committed to a campaign that stresses the importance of wearing life jackets and smart boating -- essential parts of any day on the water."
The National Safe Boating Council recommends that all boaters learn and observe the basic dos and don'ts of safe boating:
Do wear a life jacket. It floats; you don't.
Do know the waters and environment in which you will be boating.
Do keep a good lookout while under way.
Do shut off your engines while people are in the water near your boat.
Do know and observe the nautical rules of the road.
Do check the weather forecast before getting under way.
Do file a float plan.
Do keep a balanced load and a trim boat.
Don't overload your boat.
Don't stand in small boats.
Don't ride on gunwales, bow, seatbacks or other areas not designed as seats.
Don't drink alcoholic beverages and boat.
Rhoads said the NRP is cracking down across the state on people who operate boats while under the influence of alcohol by using routine patrols and special enforcement operations in known problem areas.
The NRP also is stepping up its enforcement of regulations on personal watercraft.
Over the last six years, the number of personal watercraft registered in Maryland has tripled, and while they make up only 7 percent of registered boats in the state, they were involved in 40 percent of the accidents involving personal injury last year.
Personal watercraft also account for one of every three tickets issued by the NRP.
"We have expanded our PWC enforcement efforts and will use undercover officers as well as aerial enforcement to supplement normal patrols," Rhoads said.
Statistics from BOAT/U.S., a national organization of recreational boaters, indicate that most boating accidents happen when someone falls overboard or capsizes a boat, and more than 50 percent of fatal boating accidents involve alcohol use.
Pub Date: 5/24/98