The Coast Guard released its 2017 Recreational Boating Statistics report Tuesday, revealing boating fatalities nationwide totaled 658, the second highest number in five years.

In the Northeast, recreational boating deaths decreased from 55 in 2016 to 54 in 2017, according to the report. Thirty-nine of the 54 people who died drowned and 41 of the 54 deaths were the results of capsizing or falling overboard. Thirty-nine of the 54 people who died were not wearing a life jacket and 19 out of the 54 deaths involved a paddle craft.

“Last year, 39 people died because they were not wearing a life jacket and the majority of those victims drowned,” said Walt Taylor, recreational boating safety coordinator for the First Coast Guard District in a news release. “I can assure you, none of these victims planned to have an accident that day; wear your life jacket.”

Some additional important boating safety measures that can save your life, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, include:

  • Wearing a life jacket can save your life. Nationally, seventy-six percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned, according to the 2017 statistics. Of those drowning victims, 84.5 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Children are not exempt from drowning. Be sure children boating with you all have properly fitted life jackets and know basic boating safety appropriate for their ages.
  • Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; where the primary cause was known, it is listed as the leading factor in 19 percent of deaths. Refrain from using alcohol or other impairing substances when operating boats or other watercraft.
  • Always have a marine VHF radio on your boat, along with an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon) in case of emergency, as cell phones may not be dependable while out on the water.
  • Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, machinery failure, and alcohol use rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents, according to the 2017 statistics, so be sure you are not operating a boat or watercraft that is beyond your level of knowledge and handling skill.
  • Take a boating safety course or get a free safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, The 2017 statistics show 81 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction, where instruction was known. About 14 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate. 
  • Small boats and shallow water don’t make for instant safety. The 2017 statistics show that eight out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length, so small boats and shallow water can be just as dangerous as larger vessels and deep water.

To view the 2017 Recreational Boating Statistics, go to:

For more information on boating responsibly, go to

Information on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Mobile App can be found at

Ryan Belmore is the Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

Belmore currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals. He previously served on the Board of Lucy's Hearth and the Arts & Cultural Alliance for Newport County.

Belmore and his wife, Jen, currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, a move they made in 2021. Read more about that here -

Belmore visits Newport every couple of weeks to support the 12+ paid contributors What'sUpNewp has on the ground across Rhode Island, a place he called home for 39 years.

Belmore is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, Society of Professional Journalists, and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.

In 2020, Belmore was named Member of the Year by LION and won the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Newport County's Dominque Award.
Belmore can be contacted at and 401-662-1653.