CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — With Memorial Day quickly approaching and summer right around the corner, the Coast Guard is working to ensure you stay safe when out on the water.

Last year, the Coast Guard said there were 636 boating fatalities.

Eighty-five percent of the people who drowned in a boating incident were not wearing a life jacket.

USCG Auxiliary Captain Karen Miller performed free vessel safety checks Saturday, making sure boaters like Bob Smith can enjoy their time out on the water safely.

“Bob, thank you for having a safe boat,” she said.

Some of the things Captain Miller is looking for include:

  • Life Jackets
  • Registration and numbering
  • Navigation lights
  • Ventilation
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Distress signals (flares, horn, etc.)
  • Battery cover and connections

“You never know when a boating emergency is going to happen,” Flotilla Commander Stephan Bielawski said. “Especially here in Florida.”

“We have random weather events that are really tough,” he continued. “We have a large number of boating traffic where mishaps can happen.”

He says making sure you have the necessary safety equipment is not only smart but mandatory.

“Knowing what your safety gear is [and] knowing it’s current can help you,” he said. “[It] goes a long way toward survivability during a mishap.”

US Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 11-1 hosted an information booth inside the West Marine Store at 2128 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

They answered questions and gave out information to boaters in the community.