Pictured: Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, a 295-foot barque homeported in New London, Conn., watch fireworks during Operation Sail 2012 in Norfolk, Va., June 9, 2012. OpSail 2012 Virginia is commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812 in hopes to inspire patriotism and foster interest in American maritime history and heritage. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter Shinn.

With the July 4th holiday quickly approaching, the U.S. Coast Guard wants to provide a few tips for staying safe out on the water. 

  • Always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while underway: People don’t typically have time to locate and don a life jacket during an actual emergency. For two years in a row, over 75% of boating deaths were due to drowning, and 86% of those victims were not wearing a life jacket. Unfortunately, this statistic also includes children, so please ensure that not only are your smaller passengers wearing life jackets, but they’re also wearing one for their size. Life jackets that are too big for a child can pose a serious danger.
     
  • Do not boat under the influence: Aside from wearing a lifejacket, not drinking or using drugs while boating is one of the easiest ways to prevent accidental deaths on the water. In 2020, alcohol was the leading factor in 18% of deaths on the water. People operating vessels under the influence of alcohol, drugs or impairing medication pose a serious threat to you and anyone else aboard. Don’t let your child ride in a boat operated by someone under the influence. If you see someone who appears to be operating under the influence, call the local police or Coast Guard.
     
  • Have a reliable communication device: Cell phones may go out of range or lose battery power when needed most. Having a VHF radio aboard tuned to channel 16 is the best way to let us know where you are if an emergency arises. Make sure you familiarize yourself with how to use it. 
     
  • Do not use flares as fireworks: Onboard flares should be used in an emergency situation only
     
  • Beware of rip currents: Weather patterns this time of year, including tropical storms and depressions offshore, can cause dangerous rip currents that could sweep you away. Only swim in areas with a lifeguard present to ensure your safety.
     
  • Know your captain!: Illegal charters are more prevalent during the summer months. Getting underway with an uncredentialed captain can be dangerous, as they are not ensured to have the proper safety training or inspections as a credentialed charter captain does. When hiring a captain to take you out on their boat, check for their Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential. If you suspect an illegal charter, reach out to the local Coast Guard command center:
    • North Carolina: 910-362-4015
    • Virginia: 757-668-5555
    • Maryland: 410-576-2693
    • Delaware Bay/Philadelphia: 215-271-4940

The Coast Guard hopes everyone has a fun, but (most importantly!) safe, 4th of July.