Safe Boating Tips

A Harbor Emergency Rescue Drill helps ensure a summer of safe boating


Quite possibly one of the most important ‘drills’ of the summer recently occurred just beyond the entrance to Southport Harbor. In a collaborated team effort, the Pequot Yacht Club, Vice Chairman of the Fairfield Harbor Management Commission Hugh Smith, Fairfield Marine Police, Fairfield Fire Department and a medical response ambulatory unit, performed a representative nautical emergency. This second annual vital drill is a precautionary practice run, allowing this team an opportunity to perfect protocol, in the event of a real emergency. This mock emergency practice was initiated by the Pequot Yacht Club (PYC) in June of 2013, after learning neighboring yacht clubs hosted such drills.

“We took the initiative and put this together because we have so many kids out on the water,” said Martha Murphy, Chair of the Junior Sailing Program. “We contacted the authorities last year and our drill went really well.”  PYC’s junior sailing instructors were also those among participating, as instructor Pearson Potts simulated the victim in distress as an ‘unresponsive 12-year old male with a head injury’ in a 9-foot Opti sailing vessel on Long Island Sound. 

PYC Manager Jeff Engborg explained often times these instructors are the first responders and are therefore well trained (are certified in CPR, for injuries and lacerations, defribulator use and more) in the event any type of accident occurs.

We caught up with participant Officer James Wiltsie of the Fairfield Police Departments Marine Unit and Captain aboard the 33-foot SAFE (secure all around flotation equipped) boat vessel to get some safety tips involving common mishaps!

There are six types of Coast Guard Approved, Certified Equipment, which are required aboard each recreational vessel. Read on to find out what they are...


1. Personal Flotation Devices PFD’s: This includes life preservers, throw-able devices, seat cushion with straps, life rings etc.  At a minimum, one is required for each person aboard, including a water skier/tubers. Just be sure to take them out of their packaging before boating! Safety professionals mentioned that that is a common mistake that people make. The last thing you want to be doing in an emergency is fumbling with plastic packaging.

2. Fire Extinguishers: at least one B-1 type handheld portable are recommended.

3. Backfire Flame Arresters (UL or SAE approved used for inboard motors). This device must be suitably attached to the air intake with a flame tight connection. At least two ventilator ducts (proper ventilation) are also required.


4. Visual Distress Signals: “Flare’s expire so check the expiration date and if they get wet, they don’t work. If there are a few hundred boats on the sound on a Saturday afternoon and you call for help, I’m going to tell you to light your flare so I can tell which boat you are, to come out and get you.” Bonus: drop expired/nonworking flares to them for proper disposal.

5. Audible Sound Producing Devices: Each vessel must have some means of making an efficient sound signal (a Horn or whistle and bell). Navigation rules (part of Federal law) require all vessels including canoes and kayaks – have audible signaling devices.

6. Marine Sanitation Devices (MSD) Type 1 and 2 (if your boat has installed toilet facilities): The Fairfield Marina has a free sewage pump out station thanks to the DEEP Grant. Boaters are encouraged to pump out anytime – free of charge, please!

Continue for additional safety tips...


Additional safety tips in order to prevent mishaps:

Keep a safe distance: “Boats should maintain a steerage speed within 200 feet of a swimmer, the beach or an anchored vessel, a no wake zone.”

In an emergency: “Put your VHF marine radio on Channel 16 for distress and we will answer. If you don’t have one call 911 from your cell and our dispatch center will then activate the Coast Guard, who will contact the nearest marine unit. Boaters should be familiar with their own equipment. 

Also — a lot of times we ask, what is your longitude and latitude (on your GPS)? Those coordinates are very important; we use those to find you and will get a boat enroute to you based on your coordinates.”

How should we reach you aside from the VHF?

“We can be reached at 202.254.4800, our dispatch center, for a non-emergency (if you break down or run out of gas). Dial 911, if someone has a medical problem, a person is in the water; you hit the rocks and are taking on water.”

First Aid kits are also recommended aboard each vessel and Captains should not drink alcoholic beverages.

These requirements “and our practice run is really for the benefit of the whole harbor and harbor community, so hopefully we’ll have a safer harbor,” said Engborg.

Most Popular Articles

  1. The Former Stratfield Market
    Home of the former Stratfield Market has a new tenant
  2. Fairfield Town Party
    Second Annual Fairfield Town Party
  3. Former US Post Office
    The newly renovated former US Post Office secures new tenants!
  4. Sacred Heart Student Launches Sportswear Line
    PG Sports is on its way to being Everywhere & Anywhere
  5. Crime Against Candy
    Theft of 50¢ Blow Pop is brought to justice.

Calendar of Events