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It’s practically impossible to live in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, Virginia Beach or any other city or county in southern and eastern Virginia (VA) without spending time on the water. Sailing, fishing, motorboating and riding personal watercraft such as Jet Skis and Sea-Doos are favorite pastimes and careers for many Virginians living and working within easy reach of the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean, Elizabeth River, James River, Nottoway River, Lake Gaston and many other inviting waterways too numerous to mention.

Personal watercraft (PWC) safetyIn fact, so many people take to the water so often that they find it easy to forget that they need to prevent and prepare for accidents that can cause them injuries and cost them their lives.

In an editorial published in the March 27, 2011, Virginian-Pilot, U.S. Coast Guard Auxilliary staff officer Rawl Gelinas noted that tragedies can occur suddenly when boaters fail to observe the following safety rules:

  • Wear a proper-fitting life jacket
  • Wear a survival suit when boating during the fall, winter and spring, when the water temperature is below 70 degrees.
  • Stay with your capsized boat and try to get onto the hull so you can get dry and make yourself as visible as possible to searchers and rescuers.
  • Complete the Virginia-mandated boater’s safety course before taking the controls of any boat or personal watercraft.
  • Never drink and boat. Operating a watercraft while impaired by alcohol or drugs can be as dangerous and deadly as drunk and drugged driving.

Gelinas listed several recent drowning deaths in and around Hampton Roads, mentioning that in each case, the victim was not outfitted with a personal floatation device or insulated protective suit.

As the weather warms and the number of boats and personal watercraft, or PWCs, plying our area’s waterways increase, I want everyone to take the lessons and tips offered by Gelinas to heart. Beyond dying from drowning, hypothermia or exposure, people often suffer brain injuries and physical injuries ranging from cuts to broken bones when boats and PWCs crash, capsize or run aground.

Avoiding injury and death on the water can be as simple as staying sober and wearing a life preserver. Here’s hoping everyone takes those precautions.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm with offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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