Helping to keep the Keweenaw Waterway safe

CHASSELL – According to statistics compiled by the U.S.Coast Guard, there were 4,515 boating accidents in 2012. That involved 651 deaths, 3,000 injuries and more than $38 million in property damage.

Figures further indicate the fatality rate last year was 5.4 deaths per 100,000 recreational vessels, a decrease from the 2011 rate of 6.2 deaths. Almost 71 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned and of those nearly 85 percent were not wearing life jackets.

Despite the abundance of water in the Keweenaw and the popularity of boating locally, boating accidents resulting in deaths are relatively uncommon. Locally, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is working to keep it that way.

Thursday night, Ed Lieblein, District Staff Officer for the Vessel Examination Program of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, was at the Chassell dock as members of the Copper Country Walleye Association and other boaters were coming in after an evening on the water.

At the request of the CCWA, Lieblein was offering free boating inspections.

“We work with the Coast Guard,” Lieblein said of the Auxiliary. “We go through the same check list you’d go through if you were stopped by the Coast Guard.”

The auxiliary works to make safety inspections available to owners of watercraft of all sizes. Officers will often be at boating events and when called out to activities, like Thursday and will even make house calls. “There is no charge for the inspections,” Lieblein said.

In Michigan, all watercraft other than non-motorized canoes and kayaks, are required to be registered.

The boat’s registration is the first thing Lieblein asks for when he conducts an inspection. The next thing is life jackets. “Each person on board must have a personal floatation device plus one “throwable.”

While a donut-shaped lifesaver with a rope might immediately come to mind, Lieblein said a buoyant seat cushion that can be tossed will suffice.

“We also check lights and horn, check the battery and make sure it’s tied down,” he said. Lieblein also checks for flares.

While always a good idea, signal flares are not legally required for local inland lakes, rivers and bays. “They are required if you go on the lake beyond the breakwall,” he said.

For successfully completing the inspection, boat owners are awarded a sticker acknowledging it. The sticker is valid for one year.

For more information on the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, or to request a watercraft inspection, contact Lieblein at 482-0063 or email