The exodus from mainland to the cayes began earlier today, with dozens of private vessels heading out to San Pedro, Caye Caulker and other secluded locations. While Belizeans take to water this Easter weekend, it is important to remember the primary rules of boating safety. Commander John Borland of the Belize National Coast Guard outlines a few basic measures that should be put in place prior to leaving harbor. Apart from coastguard personnel maintaining a presence at popular island and coastal destinations, the public is also being advised to exercise safety.
Rear Admiral John Borland, Commander, BNCG
“The coastguard is doubling or probably tripling its capacity as it applies to maritime safety and, like you said, water safety, particularly in dealing with recreational boating safety and the population being in the water. So we tend to double up our presence in the areas that are highly populated, for example, in San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Placencia, I think up north. If they’re having a regatta we have to be there in great presence and force. What we do is to have vessels on standby to conduct search and rescue but also to be there as a presence, to have that officer presence, you know, to advise people on safe practices. To have divers, divers have become very critical. We’ve done a lot of recovery operations recently and it seems that every time we have an increase in recreational boating we come up with accidents that we have to do search and rescue and recovery operations. But for the public on a whole, we have to be wise and we have to exercise some prudent measures when we go out on the water. If you’re going out on a boat, ensure that you have the necessary safety equipment like a life jacket, you know those are critical. The best swimmers are the ones who drown because they don’t have life jackets and so life jackets are essential, especially for children. Make sure your engines are working, you have sufficient fuel, you have a means of communication to have someone come to your aid either by phone or by channel sixteen radio. You can call your families, your families will contact the coastguard, give us a position, a location where the distress is at, the nature of the distress, are you broken down, is somebody in the water and we will respond. I think we have all the areas that have the potential for things to go wrong covered with coastguard presence and in those that we cannot have a coastguard presence, like we’re a thirty minute response away.”