WILMINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard has gone mobile.
The agency has launched a free app to help improve boaters’ safety. Senior Chief Petty Officer Lane Marshburn, officer in charge of Station Wrightsville Beach, encourages local boaters to download the Coast Guard app before getting underway.
The app was developed over two years and was most recently updated in April 2016. Features include: State boating information, a safety equipment checklist, free boating safety check requests, navigation rules and float plans, as well as calling features to report pollution or suspicious activity.
Using the Coast Guard app as tool can improve boaters’ safety, especially though the float plan option, which sends critical information to friends or family members in case the user doesn’t return to shore, Marshburn said.
“When somebody ashore is not prepared to report you missing, you’d be surprised at the information that they don’t know. Sometimes they don’t even know which ramp you put in at [or] who’s truck is pulling the boat…they can’t even describe the vehicle,” Marshburn said. “So I would suggest you get the app and utilize it.”
If a user enables location services on the app, they can receive up-to-date weather reports from the nearest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather buoys. The weather reports provide information boaters can use while navigating local waterways.
“When somebody ashore is not prepared to report you missing, you’d be surprised at the information that they don’t know.” — Senior Chief Petty Officer Lane Marshburn, U.S. Coast Guard
“You should be aware that wind and even the direction of the currant can be very important, particularly if you traverse Carolina Beach Inlet or Topsail Inlet,” Marshburn said. “If the wind is blowing one direction and the currant is going in the another, it tends to raise the sea state. That’s just one of the small things that weather can affect.”
Boaters can report the location of a water hazard through the app. The app also features an emergency assistance button which, with locations services enabled, will call the closest Coast Guard command center.
However, Marshburn cautioned boaters on relying completely on the app for emergencies and urged boaters to use their VHF radios as the primary means of communication to the Coast Guard during emergency situations when on the water. The Coast Guard strongly recommends all boaters have VHF radios aboard their vessels.
Interested boaters can go to the app store, search U.S. Coast Guard and download the free app directly to their mobile devices. For information about the app and its services, visit the U.S. Coast Guard website.