As boating season approaches it’s a good idea to review basic boating safety rules no matter how experienced you may be. We have included some boating tips, below, to ensure all your boating trips are as safe as they are fun!
Be aware of weather: You can check weather information on TV, radio or Internet so always make sure you check before leaving the dock. While on the water your VHF radio is your main source for weather reports. Weather can be unpredictable and change rapidly so make sure you are always keeping an eye out for warning signs. Two main indications of a high-storm probability are 1.) a lowering ceiling, this means the cloud formations are getting lower and cumulus (puffy) clouds are forming vertically, 2.) a sudden drop in temperature, a change in wind, or a drop in pressure.
Life Jackets: A life jacket or PFD (personal floatation device) is an easy safety device to use and it could save your life. There are many different types of flotation devices so choose one that suits your boating activities and conditions. Every boat must have a lifejacket that is Coast Guard approved for every person on board, and all lifejackets must be properly sized for each person aboard. Children under 13 and people who are doing water sports (water skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing) must be wearing a life jacket. All life jackets must be readily available and not out of reach. There are many different types of floatation devices so buy one that suits you and keep it close.
Float Plans: Creating a float plan every time you take a trip on your boat can increase the chances of the Coast Guard being able to help you if something does go wrong. A float plan can be left with a relative, friend or at your local marina. A float plan should typically include your name, address, phone number of all passengers, boat type and registration information, your itinerary for the day or the length of your trip, and your communication equipment. Remember to call and report your location regularly this will help the Coast Guard pin point your location.
Designate a Sober Skipper: Make sure there is at least one person on board, at all times, who is familiar with your boat handling, operations, and safety. This way if the primary skipper is injured or incapable of performing these duties, someone else is there to safely return everyone on board back to shore. Almost half of all boating accidents involve alcohol, so keep the alcohol consumption ashore. It is illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated so ensure someone on board is sober and capable of operating the boat at all times. Being out in the sun and with all the stressors of boating you need all of your attention to focus on safety. Alcohol impairs your ability to do this so save your alcohol for when you arrive safely back at the dock.
In addition to all of these safety tips taking a boating safety course will ensure you are familiar with all safety rules. Many websites and marinas offer boating safety courses online and in person. Educating yourself is the best way to keep your boating trips as fun and safe as they can be!