Be safe on nation’s birthday
As we celebrate our nation's birthday over this four-day weekend, many recreational boaters on Oahu are looking forward to the dramatic fireworks displays featured at several waterfront locations.
The Marine Corps' Bayfest in Kaneohe has scheduled fireworks nightly from Friday through Tuesday, Hickam Air Force Base will be shooting them off on Monday and Tuesday night, and there will be displays in Kailua Bay and Pearl Harbor on Tuesday evening as well.
Still, the Fourth of July's biggest event for most Honolulu boaters will be the annual fireworks show at 8:30 p.m. off Magic Island and the nearby Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor.
Due to the close proximity of the Ala Wai channel to the launching pad of those fireworks, harbormaster Meghan Statts has given notice to mariners that the channel will be closed for safety reasons between 8:00 and 9:30 that evening.
Once boaters have left the harbor, they will not be able to return for at least an hour and a half, and although the Coast Guard and/or its Auxiliary will be there for assistance, they are sure to be on the lookout for safety violations as well.
This means, of course, that if you are planning on taking your friends and family out to view the display from offshore, you had better plan on making sure you and your vessel are ready for the task.
For instance, when was the last time you had your boat out after dark? If it's been a while, it would be smart to check that all its running lights are operational before leaving the dock.
You might also want to check that your flashlights all have fresh batteries and are located where you are most likely to need them.
Having enough personal floatation devices (life vests) is another serious consideration. And not only having one for each person aboard, but for children, making sure they have sizes that fit.
It should also be remembered that preteens are required by law to wear PFDs at all times when they are above deck.
Because of all the fireworks going off on the Fourth of July, invariably a few boaters seem to get caught up in the moment and try to add to the aerial display with their own emergency flares.
This not only violates the law, but presents a serious problem for emergency responders who may be diverted while they are helping others.
And finally, while we are on the subject of the law, it should be mentioned that while boating and beer are thought by some to go together like rock and roll, operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol is as illegal as when driving a car.
Research has also shown that boating stressors such as wind, noise, vibration, and motion can heighten the effects of alcohol on your balance, vision, judgment and coordination.
Try to limit your intake of alcohol and you may find you are enjoying the fireworks displays from offshore the most.