4th Fireworks Advisory
by Tom Rau

Great Lakes harbor mouths
Great Lakes harbor mouths, river channels, bays and connecting lakes draw hundreds of boaters to fireworks events. Pictured is the Grand Haven, Michigan River Channel alive with boaters awaiting the annual Coast Guard Festival fireworks extravaganza. Photo, Marge Beaver/Tom Rau

Across the Great Lakes local waterfront communities will be hosting firework events. In order to maintain a high level of safety that these events demand, Coast Guard crews along with local marine law enforcement agencies will be out in force. Boaters can play a large part in assisting law enforcement officials during waterfront events by adhering to the following safety guide lines.

Boaters should keep within safety buoys and avoid transiting across security zones that are in place to create separation between the fireworks platform and spectators.

Fireworks zones require up to a 1000-foot distance between spectator boats and the fireworks platform. Authorities will delay the fireworks until all boaters are in compliance. In those cases where a river channel is temporarily shut down due to fireworks, such as when the fireworks platform is located near a harbor mouth, boaters will be notified in advance on marine radio (VHF-FM Channel 22) and Local Notice to Mariners of the channel closure and times. For those occasional late-comers, channel-closing times will be strictly enforced so the show may begin on time.

Boaters attending events after dusk are required to display proper running lights, and if anchored, the proper anchor light. Marine officials will send boaters back to their moorings if they fail to display proper navigation lights. Boaters should remember to fully charge batteries; a low battery may prevent engine start, which could find the boater adrift in the dark amongst heavy boating traffic.

Over the years, I’ve often seen boaters transiting a congested channel at night with their stern light covered with gear. This is a good way to get run down from behind. Keep that stern light clear and keep extra bulbs aboard.

Near channel mouths and in dark river channels, post a forward lookout. You just might come upon a boater with a dead battery. Keep a flash light nearby, which can also be handy for disabled and adrift boaters to flash their presence.

Always operate at a safe speed. After larger events, Great Lakes harbor mouths, river channels, and nearby lakes can swarm with boaters. I’ve patrolled many of these waters and know that dark waters can make navigation treacherous. Operate at a safe speed, and to repeat: post a forward lookout.

Of utmost importance: Enjoy the event and be assured the safest way home is the Boat Smart way.

Tom Rau is a long-time Coast Guard rescue responder and syndicated boating safety columnist.

Look for his book, Boat Smart Chronicles, a shocking expose on recreational boating — reads like a great ship’s log spanning over two decades. It’s available to order at: www.boatsmart.net,
www.seaworthy.com, www.amazon.com, or
through local bookstores.