An annual day of fun (and some debauchery) in Chesapeake City, Md.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What you boaters need to know

Here's some advice for the 2009 Canal Day from Lt. Joshua N. Blocker of the U.S. Coast Guard. Lt. Blocker runs the show for the USCG on the water in the Chesapeake City basin on Canal Day and the days leading up to it:
1. Do everyone a favor if you're planning on indulging in some adult beverages ... hide the keys to your boat!!! Of all boating fatalities in the U.S. Last year, 21% were attributed to alcohol which means 100% of those deaths were needless and totally preventable.
2. Be mindful of carbon monoxide poisoning, especially if your're running a portable generator on your boat, when you pull into the basin and "set up shop" for the weekend. Overnight, the winds have a tendency to shift and that could blow the fumes back into your boat.
3. Water balloons and water guns are fine by me...what makes the hair on our neck stand up are the guys with the three-man slingshot firing frozen water balloons into the crowd at the Chesapeake Inn...not only is it NOT funny, but expect a visit from the Coast Guard, DNR and Cecil County Sheriffs deputies (remember - "bad things come in threes")...
4. If you need emergency assistance and call 911, please identify your location as the Chesapeake City Basin...we had a couple of calls last year where the callers said they were in the C&D Canal, when they were actually within earshot of us. Misidentification of your location will cause needless delay for the responders.
5. Basin closure... I get a lot of these questions...there is no fixed number when we decide to close the basin. It's based on the existing capacity at the time, ease of movement for response vessels should an incident (search and rescue, fire fighting, medevac) occur, etc. The last two years I was there, closure occurred right around 2 pm. Also, closure of the basin does not affect personal watercraft (PWCs), which by their design do not have navigation lights and have to be gone before sunset anyways...and they're small too.
6. PFDs...While there is a legal requirement for their to be enough serviceable CG-approved life jackets for every person on a boat while underway, there isn't really a legal requirement to wear one while swimming in the basin...but here's our advice - wear one anyways and here's the number of boats flooding into the basin increases Friday and Saturday, your going to want all the help you can get to make yourself more visible to the inbound boat drivers. Put yourself in their shoes for a 'sec...they're trying to enter the basin, find a spot to tie off, dodging other boats in the process, about task saturation. Now enter into the mix a swimmer (no PFD) who all you can see is their head. A life jacket does two things...It makes the swimmer more buoyant, keeping the wearer higher in the water and life jackets usually have color schemes and patterns that also make the wearer more visible. For us, it seems like a win-win situation...
7. While the Army Corps boat ramp will be blocked off, the small floating pier/dock will be open. Fact, we'd rather see people use that than walking over the slippery rocks that line the back basin.
8. No...we're not going to be "stopping every boat entering the basin to confiscate all your beer and liquor" as was erroneously reported last year. I would need a 200-person crew and would have to start boarding boats a week before Canal Days even starts...and I seem to recall Prohibition ended over 80 years ago.
9. Be extremely careful if you're going to be cooking on your boat.
10. Make sure you take care of the Inn dockmaster and dock crew, bartenders and waitresses...the crew at the Inn does one hell of a job, so show some appreciation.
11. Get into town! Although the water-side festivities tend to take center stage, you'd be missing out if you didn't get into town and help yourself to the wares being sold by the vendors.
12. HAVE FUN! If you're not, then you're doing something wrong.

If the above tips don't answer your basin boating questions, Lt. Blocker offers his e-mail for questions.
"I have absolutely no issues with folks emailing me directly in order to obtain correct info...Canal Days is too fun an event to lose out on because someone got some bad info."
Lt. Blocker at

LT Joshua N. Blocker
Chief, Incident Management Division
U.S. Coast Guard Sector Baltimore

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