With the start of recreational harvest of Dungeness crab only a week away, now is a good time to plan and prepare your vessel and gear for the rush of opening day. Advance planning can reduce stress and frustration, and help you have a safe and memorable adventure out on the water.
Boater education is a critical component of safety out on the water. There are many online boating education resources available including the Washington State Parks Boating Program website. Here you can find information on required vessel safety equipment, lifejackets and skills education. For more information, visit the website at parks.state.wa.us/435/boating.
The Adventures in Boating Handbook is a great resource where you will find information on mandatory safety equipment, boating safety tips and basic rules of the road for safely operating your vessel out on the water. The handbook is available free online at the Washington State Parks website and at bit.ly/3iwwhy9.
One critical piece of safety equipment is the life jacket. All vessels (including non-motorized watercraft) are required to have at least one U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved Type I, II or III life jacket for each person on board. Washington state law requires that children 12 years old and younger must wear a USCG-approved life jacket at all times when underway in a vessel less than 19 feet in length, unless in a fully enclosed area.
The Blaine Harbor Office participates in the BoatUS Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program for Kids. The program makes loaner life jackets available to boating families that do not have enough properly fitting life jackets aboard their boat for the day or weekend. Only a limited number of life jackets are available so please return borrowed life jackets as soon as possible.
Boaters should be reminded the state now requires boat operators ages 12 years and older to pass a boating safety course and obtain a Boater Education Card before operating a motorized vessel of 15 horsepower or greater. This requirement can be satisfied by completing an online course, or in some cases providing proof of completing an approved boating safety course. More information at bit.ly/2XhcNFG.
The local boat launches are a busy place during weekends. To help reduce wait times and congestion at the ramp and dock, please have your vessel ready to launch before approaching the ramp. This helps eliminate vehicle congestion at the top of the ramp and keeps the dock free for boats launching or preparing for haul-out. More information on boat ramp safety and etiquette is available in the Adventures in Boating Handbook.
Finally, each year we get a number of questions on the current rules and regulations for crabbing. These are contained in the 2021-22 Washington Sport Fishing Rules Handbook which is available anywhere you can buy a fishing license or online at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.
Please carefully read the regulations for crab gear, daily catch limits and minimum size. Lost crab gear is both frustrating to the fisher and harmful to marine organisms. Visit Northwest Straits Commission, nwstraits.org/our-work/catch-more-crab for information on strategies to reduce the risk for lost crab gear and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, wdfw.wa.gov/fishing for information on what to do if your crab gear goes missing.
Andy Peterson is harbormaster for Blaine Marina.
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