PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of boating season. Before you head out on the water the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 35 wants you to make sure you have all the proper safety gear and that your equipment is in good condition.
Officials said one of most important precautions is having a properly fitting life jacket for everyone on board. Statistics show that if you're in a boating accident you're about five times less likely to drown if you're wearing a jacket.
Jimbo Palmer of Long Beach said he's wise enough to know some things are better left to the experts. So when offered the chance for an in depth safety inspection of his boat, he gladly took it.
"To make sure that we were legal and safe while out on the water because the family goes and we need to be safe," said Palmer.
Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 35 gave free safety checks at the Pass Christian Harbor. They said just having flares, fire extinguishers and air horns on board isn't enough.
"Preparation does save lives," said Linda Janik, Coast Guard Auxiliary. "There's a lot of things you need on your boat to make sure your boat is safe. Knowing where these things are and how to use them is also very important."
Officials said people are taking a chance whenever they go out on the water with only a cell phone to call for help.
"A VHF marine radio is highly recommended. Although it's not a requirement item it really should be in our opinion," said Janik.
"Cell phones are not very reliable out on the water a lot of times. It's always a good idea to have a VHF radio. Because if you make a distress call on the VHF radio not only will the Coast Guard hear you on channel 16, but other boaters in the area will also hear your distress call," Janik said.
Another important tip--inform someone on land that your going on a boat ride.
"Telling somebody on shore where you're going to be. When you will come back. Where your boat is going to be for the day," said Janik. "If something happens and you can't communicate your distress then someone on land can also call the Coast Guard and they'll search for you."