Let the boating begin | SierraSun.com
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Let the boating begin

Dressed in navy blue fatigues and bright orange life vests, and equipped with emergency cold-water gear, United States Coast Guard seamen Jeremy Zimmer, Larry Hattala and Randy Vawters gunned their patrol boat Saturday afternoon, responding to a report of a boat fire on Lake Tahoes West Shore. Minutes before, the Coast Guard crew was on a routine patrol when a sailor in a woody sped by blaring a fake siren. The crewmen intercepted the vintage motorboat, and prepared to board it and conduct a safety inspection, but stopped when the report of the possible boat blaze came over the radio.With the distress call, the seamen quickly switched gears from law enforcement to search and rescue, as they often must during the busy summer months. Within a few minutes, the patrol boat arrived on the scene of the reported fire, only to learn that the overheated engine had not started a fire. The emergency response had ended without incident.Memorial Day Weekend marks the beginning of Lake Tahoes boating season and the U.S. Coast Guard is gearing up for another busy one policing the alpine lakes chilly waters. We do increase our patrols, especially with the summer coming up, Zimmer said.The Coast Guards biggest concerns at Lake Tahoe include reckless driving, alcohol-related accidents, water temperatures and ill-prepared boaters. At 6,223 feet, Lake Tahoe is at a higher elevation than other inland waterways the Coast Guard patrols, which makes for a short season, frigid water and sometimes-severe weather conditions.There have already been two fatalities at the lake this year, and many of those whove died in the past could have been saved had they been wearing life preservers, Zimmer said.But in an effort to keep the holiday weekend safe as well as enjoyable for boaters, eight other agencies joined the Coast Guard Saturday at Lake Tahoe, including patrol boats from the Placer and Washoe sheriffs departments and the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.Inter-agency cooperation is vital up here. Because of our location, if something happens in South Lake, we may get other agencies to respond more quickly, Zimmer said.

Boating basicsAll boats are required to have life jackets, extra floatation devices, a fire extinguisher and a horn of some type, Zimmer said, and the skippers should have an understanding of basic boat safety.They should make sure their vessels are in operating condition … with the proper safety equipment, said Zimmer.County sheriffs departments, police departments and the Coast Guard have the authority to stop and inspect boats for these essentials, while the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a volunteer group that focuses on education, helps boat-owners comply with federal, state and county mandates.Besides proper flotation devices, drinking while boating remains one of the biggest concerns, particularly during holidays, agency officials say.Especially big weekends like this when we have a lot of drinking, Zimmer said. Like on the road .08 blood alcohol level its the same thing on a watercraft that we consider operating under the influence.Because alcohol is a factor in nearly half of all boating fatalities, Cal Boating officials said extra precautions during busy holiday weekends are imperative.In every waterway what were seeing is accidents that involve alcohol. Were reminding boaters not to drink alcohol and boat at the same time, said Cal Boating spokeswoman Gloria Sandoval. Take it easy, have fun. But remember with boating comes responsibility.


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