Coast Guard Not Required to Rescue Yachts

If you have an emergency on the water with your yacht you are guaranteed the Coast Guard will come to your rescue, right? Wrong.

Boaters should ensure they take proper precautions on the water and secure adequate yacht insurance coverage for towing, salvage etc vs. relying on the United States Coast Guard (USCG) to keep them safe.

Did you think the USCG had an obligation to rescue anyone in distress? Well, if you did you aren’t alone. Many people do believe that, but in actual fact the USCG is authorized by federal law to launch life-saving rescues but it is not an imposed duty. In other words, they are not responsible to respond to every single accident immediately.

In a recent federal appeals court case, a widow from North Carolina brought forward a lawsuit after her husband died in 2007 following a tragic accident in bad weather. She and her husband were in their motorboat when bad weather resulted in both of them going overboard. Neither of them wore life jackets.

Although a relative reported they hadn’t returned by midnight, it was eight hours before the USCG started searching for Susan and Roger Turner. She was able to get to shore by hanging on to crab buoys but her husband perished.

In the November 2013 ruling, the Richmond, Va., 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals absolved the USCG of responsibility for the death.

So what should responsible boat and yacht owners do?

Just like adequate coverage from a yacht insurance company will protect your investment and guard against calamity and liability, the proper safety precautions and procedures are necessary to protect you and your passengers.

  • Know the local marine rules and regulations as well as basic yachting safety. Unsure? Take a boating safety course. The bonus is that taking a boating safety course may even lower your boat or yacht insurance rates.
  • Make sure you leave a FLOAT plan with someone you know each time you leave the shore. If you don’t return by the specified time, your friends and loved ones will know to initiate a search – every minute counts.
  • Don’t tempt fate. Take responsibility and ensure that your boat or yacht is fully equipped for emergencies. You should have food and water rations for all your passengers, flotation devices, a fully stocked first aid kit and certification in first aid training.
  • Make sure you can summon help. At a minimum you should have a distress flag, distress light to send an SOS (or at least a powerful flashlight) and a flare gun. Most recommended is a VHF marine radio. Do you know how to use the radio to broadcast a distress call for a life-threatening situation? You say, “Mayday – Mayday – Mayday” on channel 16. You need to give your boat’s name and location as well as a brief description of your emergency. This lets other boaters in the area know they could help you. To specify your location accurately you will need either navigational maps or GPS.
  • Take precautions appropriate to the season. If you are yachting in summer, you will likely have more boaters nearby available to render assistance than in fall or winter. If you are on the water in cooler months, you need to have life jackets designed for cold water survival and may even want to invest in survival suits to guard against hypothermia.

Global Marine Insurance Agency specializes in customized boat and yacht insurance that ensures you have the proper yacht insurance coverage for your vessel, location and purpose. Don’t risk being underinsured when complete coverage is only a phone call away. Call 800-748-0224 for a boat or yacht insurance quote tailored to your boating needs.

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