SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Expect to see the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol in all directions around the marinas and near shore locations, possibly more than ever this summer.
Safe Boating Week is underway and both advice and inspections are taking place with Memorial Day weekend coming up.
That's expected to kick off a busy boating season. And these days it's much more than that.
The waters are filled with commercial vessels, yachts, other pleasure boaters, paddle boards, jet skies, kayaks, kite surfers, hydrofoil boards, surfers, touring boats and the daily whale watching and sportfishing trips.
Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol Officer Jan Martinez said, "we have a lot more boaters ever since COVID. It is an opportunity for them to get in the water and use whatever craft they have."
The Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol is frequently answering questions, doing inspections, and urging the boaters to have both safety plans, and life jackets ready.
"If they are stored down below in your boat and something happens and you will not be able to get to them. That just defeats the purpose of having them," said Martinez on the deck of Harbor Patrol boat 2. He showed three common vests including one that is lightweight and activated with the pull of a small rip cord.
The remind boaters to make sure the life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard-approved.
In addition to the nearly 1200 boats that are already in the Santa Barbara harbor on weekends, the number increases by hundreds of people that are both in and out of the water making it very challenging for the harbor patrol.
Out on a patrol boat you can see up close where many safety and directional signs are posted.
The harbor entrance also has green and red buoys help to keep order.
Martinez said, "the green leads your way out the red leads your way back in. It's just like being on the street, you want to drive on the right hand side of the road."
A speed limits is in place and boaters need to be alert to their surroundings.
"It's five knots or no wake once you get past the imaginary line that runs from the wharf and the end of the break wall. Then you can kick up your speed but when you come back in, at that same imaginary line, you want to drop your speed down to five knots or no wake," said Martinez.
He also said operating a water craft when you are impaired by drugs or alcohol is unlawful and similar to driving drunk or drugged you could be cited or detained. The Harbor Patrol says alcohol use is a major contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
Looking at a kayak with two people inside, both wearing vests and staying close to shore, Martinez said they were following procedures. "Yes they are. They are both doing it right, they are both wearing their life jackets and they are not in the main channel."
Santa Barbara Adventure Company Owner Michael Cohen said from his paddle board inside the harbor, "I know in the harbor on a busy Memorial Day weekend it can get a little crazy. I say just stay to the side, keep your eyes pealed you will be alright." He was tucked in to the marinas and near boats on his route through the harbor.
Martinez said the area is enjoyed daily by local residents and visitors. "We live in a beautiful community here where the water is a resource for us. Everybody wants to come down and enjoy it so we just want everybody to be safe out here."
The Harbor Patrol expects to have its eye on boat owner safety in the docks and when the vessels are underway to make sure boaters are following the proper maritime rules and have safety gear as required by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Because more people have been taking part in recreational water activities, some have had issues with safety. Both the Harbor Patrol and the Santa Barbara Fire department have had an increase in water rescue calls.
Recently there was also a night time drill near Stearns Wharf involving the rescue swimmers from the fire department collaborating with the Harbor Patrol and the Coast Guard helicopter.
All boaters should also be aware of the micro-specific weather for their area.
For more information go to: Safe Boating Week