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First booze, now boats: state requires boater ed card for under-21 crowd

Memorial Day weekend brought out boaters en mass as Mother Nature provided plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures.

But this year there are a few changes to boater regulations.

As of Jan. 1, the state requires people ages 12 to 20 to obtain a Washington State Boater Education Card when operating vessels with 15 horsepower or more.

“They have to have the card on them when boating or they will get a ticket,” said Dan Shipman, recreation boating specialist for the U.S. Coast Guard’s 13th district.

Over the next seven years, people 50 years old and younger will be required to take a Washington State Parks approved boater education course to possess a boaters education card.

Fines for not having the card on hand are $87, said Mark Kenny, marine law enforcement coordinator for Washington State Parks.

Next year, people 25 years and younger will be required to have the card.

Links to approved courses are available online at www.parks.wa.gov/boatersafety.asp.

To pass, 80 percent of the questions must be answered correctly. The card costs $10 for the application processing fee and takes about three weeks for it to arrive in the mail.

“It’s basic education to reduce fatality and boating accidents,” Kenny said. “It’s a very good regulation and it’s working well in other states.”

In fact, 37 states have laws mandating boater education courses.

The legislation, which passed in 2005, started as a grass roots petition in 2000 from boaters upset over the number of accidents that happen each year.

Due to North Kitsap’s proximity to military bases, Shipman reminds boaters to stay 1,000 yards away from the shore of Naval Base Kitsap - Bangor and Keyport and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton.

Boaters should also respect the 1,000 yard boundary rule for submarines arriving or departing in local waters.

“You want to stay clear of those things just because of all the security involved,” he said.

Another reminder: wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejacket.

Any child younger than 13 years old is required by law to wear a lifejacket on boats 19-feet long or smaller.

Shipman strongly recommends everyone onboard wear a lifejacket.

“Nine out of 10 fatalities happen to people who are not wearing lifejackets,” he said. “The number one cause of fatal accidents is people falling overboard. Less than 19 percent of adults wear lifejackets and they become incapacitated very quickly in the cold water.”

Before going out on the water Shawn Ziemann of the Poulsbo Police Department said boaters should check their equipment.

“Usually when we have some kind of accident it’s linked to mechanical failure,” he said.

Courtesy vessel checks are made by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary and the U.S. power squadron.

For more information on how to schedule a courtesy check visit usps.org or uscgboating.org.

For those boaters who can’t resist the occasional dip in the water, the health district cautions swimmers to be aware of the potential for swimmers itch and toxic blur-green algae.

To help prevent swimmers itch, use waterproof sunscreen before swimming and shower after.

For current beach closures, lake and shellfish advisories check out www.kitsapcountyhealth.com or call 1-800-2BE-WELL, the health district hotline.

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