Safe Sailing

LDWF’s Boating Safety Program Reducing Incidents And Fatalities
story by LT. CLAY MARQUES, LDWF Enforcement

Louisiana averaged approximately 152 boating incidents and 36 fatalities per year from 1993 to 2003, prior to mandatory Boating Education requirement.

Now compare these numbers. In the last five years, Louisiana has averaged 103 incidents and 20 fatalities per year.

“Any one incident or fatality is too many,” said Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Boating Education Coordinator Lt. Clay Marques. “However, anytime there is a decrease in fatalities, we will consider that as a good sign and progress.”

The LDWF Boating Safety Program has undergone a few changes in leadership in the past year. First off, Major Rachel Zechenelly took over as the State Boating Law Administrator in October of 2017. This position was previously held by Colonel Sammy Martin from October 2014 up until his promotion in September 2017. It was at that time he passed those duties on to Major Zechenelly. This position is the highest level of Louisiana’s Boating pro-gram and plays a role in coordinating with the state’s legisla-ture and Coast Guard on improving boating laws.

Marques is the Boating Education Coordinator. This position reports directly to the Boating Law Administrator and is responsible for the overall supervision, planning, coordination, monitoring and continued development of the program. The coordinator is also responsible for administration, record-keeping and other duties necessary to keep the program successful.

As part of the LDWF Boating Safety Program, there are multiple events held during the boating season.

The first is Boating Education Lagniappe Day held annually at eight locations across the state. During Boating Education Lagniappe Day, LDWF provides instructors for the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) boating education course, NASBLA boating education certification, food and drinks, giveaways and door prizes all free of charge to the public. LDWF urges the public to register quickly as most places have limited spaces available and registration is on a first come first serve basis.

Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1984 must complete a NASBLA-approved boating education course and carry proof of completion to operate a motorboat in excess of 10 horsepower. The course includes information on choosing a boat, classification, hulls, motors, legal requirements and equipment requirements.

The course also covers many navigation rules and charts, trailering, sailboats, canoeing, personal watercraft and more. Completion of the course will result in the student being issued a vessel operators certification card.

Louisiana also participates in Safe Boating Week every year, which is always the week before the Memorial Day Weekend. Safe Boating Week signifies the beginning of the spring and summer boating season. During safe boating week, agents remind all boaters to be safe, responsible and knowledgeable while on the water during this safe boating week.

Safe Boating Week is a time for all boaters to inspect their vessels to ensure that all required safety equipment is on board and that vessels are in good working condition. LDWF Enforcement Division agents are out in full force during the week to perform boating safety checks and driving or operating a vessel while intoxicated (DWI) patrols.

LDWF also participates in Operation Dry Water, which is during the weekend before the Fourth of July holiday. Operation Dry Water is a national outreach and enforcement campaign with the goal of raising awareness of the dangers of boating under the influence.

Annually, Operation Dry Water facilitates a three-day weekend of heightened awareness and enforcement of DWI laws. This campaign takes places nationally and is made possible through the efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. This year LDWF agents issued 10 DWI citations during that weekend.


The Type I PFD is recommended for rough, open water and is found aboard ships at sea. They provide the most buoyancy, are excellent for flotation, and will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water. Its purpose is to turn unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water. Type I PFDs have a minimum buoyancy of 22 lb for adults and 11 lb for children.

The Type II PFD is designed for use near shore, where the chances of a quick rescue are likely. Its standard “horse collar” fits around your neck and will turn most but not all unconscious wearers to a face-up position. These vests are good for calm waters when quick assistance or rescue is likely. Type II PFDs have a minimum buoyancy of 1.5 lbs for adults and 11 lb for children.

These vests or full-sleeved jackets are good for calm waters when quick assistance or rescue is likely. They are not recommended for rough waters since they will not turn most unconscious persons face up. Type III PFDs are used for water sports such as water-skiing. Some vests require the wearers to place themselves in a face-up position in the water. The slim size and large armholes offer the most freedom of movement. Jackets in this category range from vests and pullovers to a combination of the two. Type III PFDs have a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 lb or adults and 11 lb for children.

Type IV PFDs are buoyant cushions and rings that can be thrown to a swimmer. They are intended for use in calm water with a lot of boat traffic where help is always available. Since a Type IV PFD is not designed to be worn, it is neither for rough waters nor for persons who are unable to hold onto it. These PFDs are NOT U.S. Coast Guard-approved for canoe and kayak use.

Type V PFDs are designed for specific activities such as sailing, water-skiing, personal watercraft, and paddling. They must be worn according to the instructions on the label, or they are not considered U.S. Coast Guard-approved. Some Type V PFDs are designed to inflate when you enter the water.

For more information on PFDs, please visit


Recent Posts