SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - This Memorial Day weekend, many South Mississippians will be enjoying some fun in the sun aboard boats. Before you leave the dock, there are some things you need to make sure you have with you.
"You have got to have PFD's (personal floatation devices). You have to have some sort of sound devices. You have to have your day/night flares if you are over 16 feet," Barry Cottrell, Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Flotilla 3-7 said. "Also, make sure your lights on the boat are working properly, your bilges are working properly and you need to be checking your engine before you ever go out."
Cottrell and his team of volunteers assist the U.S. Coast Guard to make sure everyone stays safe on the water.
"We are not a law enforcement agency," Cottrell explained. "We are out there to help, so if you see us, don't worry that we are going to come and board you. We are going to come and do what we can do to help you if you need help."
Cottrell recommends that everyone wear a life jacket while on a boat regardless of age.
"You never pull a person off the bottom that's wearing a life jacket, so it's just a very safe thing to do," Cottrell said.
Remember, it is the law for children under 13 to have a life jacket on.
Cottrell also said it is a good idea to stay hydrated.
"Dehydration affects your ability to think, and so we want to make sure people are hydrated so we don't have someone out there making a mistake they normally wouldn't make," Cottrell said.
In 2013, there were more than 4,000 boating accidents and 560 boating deaths according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The leading cause of fatal accidents was alcohol use.
"You don't need to drink and boat. That's probably the one thing that can cause the most problems," Cottrell said.
Before you go anywhere, Cottrell said to let someone know where you are going and when you should be back.
For more information on boating safety, you can find a Mississippi Boater's Guide at Academy Sports or other boating stores. Also, if you would like to have one of the flotilla members check your boat for free, you can call 228-388-2278.