|On a summer weekend last year, I received a cell phone call from the leader of a group of kayakers who had suddenly found themselves in the middle of what appeared to be an organized cigarette boat race (cigarette boats are designed as high power offshore race boats). After a couple of near misses the leader was able to get his group back on shore and had called to see if I had any way of finding out what was going on and whether it was now safe to resume their paddle.
My first impulse was to check the Local Notice to Mariners for our waters, in this case the 13th Coast Guard District. Knowing that all marine events must apply for and receive a permit I’d assumed this information would be available to the public through the Coast Guard’s weekly update to all mariners. To my surprise this information was not available. The district's office was closed for the weekend and I was not able to provide an answer to the group stranded on the beach. The group waited on shore till it was obvious that the coast was clear before continuing their paddle. All made it across safe and no one was hurt.
Monday morning, both the group leader and I contacted the Coast Guard about the incident. In this case, the event was not given a permit because the Coast Guard had safety concerns. The promoter was unwilling to cancel the event after people had traveled some distance to participate, so they ran it without the required permit. During one of my conversations with the Coast Guard, I suggested that publishing marine events in our Local Notice to Mariners (LNM) would give boaters a place to check on activities that might interfere with their plans on the water. With that one phone call the policy of our local District was changed and our weekly LNM now includes a listing of permitted marine events. While checking the LNM would not have changed the outcome of this incident it can help keep you out of similar circumstances. I relate this story for three reasons.
- When planning an outing on navigable waterways, take a few minutes to check your LNM. There is a wealth of current information about activities and dangers that you might encounter while on the water. You can adjust your itinerary to avoid them. In addition this is where all chart updates are first published for those wanting to keep their charts current.
- Never underestimate the influence of an individual communicating with a governmental agency. I know that our local Coast Guard District works hard to communicate and work with all boaters and they are willing to make changes that will increase safety on the water. If your local district does not currently include permitted water activities in your LNM, you should encourage them to do so.
- If you’re planning an organized activity on the water check with your local Coast Guard office to see if a permit is required. (Click here to view a map that will link you to your local district.) If it is, take the time to obtain the permit and request that your event be listed in the LNM. The LNM is widely read by commercial mariners and it will inform them of your presence. As a part of the permitting process your application will be reviewed by all concerned agencies before being approved. At times the Coast Guard may suggest shifting a start time or moving a course to help keep your event from interfering with commercial traffic. Cooperating with the Coast Guard in this way can help keep all of us safer on the water.
What is a Local Notice to Mariners?
The LNM is a weekly publication put out by each Coast Guard District as the primary means for disseminating information concerning aids to navigation, hazards to navigation, and other items of marine information of interest to mariners. LNMs are developed from information received from Coast Guard field units, the general public, the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Merchant Fleet, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Ocean Service (NOS), and other sources, concerning the establishment of, changes to, and deficiencies in aids to navigation and any other information pertaining to the safety of the waterways within each Coast Guard District. This information includes: reports of channel conditions, obstructions, hazards to navigation, dangers, anchorage's, restricted areas, regattas, information on bridges such as proposed construction or modification, the establishment or removal of drill rigs and vessels, and similar items.
Definition of LNM taken from the US Coast Guard Website http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/lnm/lnmfaq.htm