The open seas are calling your name! Whether you are fishing, tubing, skiing, or just enjoying the breeze in your hair, boating is a fun activity for everyone. We want you to enjoy your boating adventures, but part of that is keeping everyone safe.
The most recent recreational boating statistics report by the U.S. Coast Guard had some eye-opening statistics that will make you think twice about safety before hitting the open water. I want to share just a few of those 2013 figures: 4,062 accidents were counted, 560 deaths, 2,620 injuries, $39 million of damage to property. Let’s look at some safety tips to keep you and your family from becoming a number in one of these statistics.
– Check the capacity plate, which specifies the maximum number of people and weight capacity that the boat can handle safely. If there is no plate, follow the recommended capacity in the owner’s manual.
– Keep an extra towrope in case someone needs a tow, or if you do.
– Be prepared with lifejackets- not only by having them on board (one per person), but also assigning and fitting them to each person on board. Additionally, keep a life ring or cushion that doubles as a flotation device on board. If operating a PWC- lifejackets are not an option.
– Make sure you have an adequate anchor (this may need to be used if caught in a bad storm).
– Keep a stocked first aid kit on board.
– There are multiple signaling devises that are useful and required. Be sure your horn is in working order or you have a whistle. Also make sure you keep day and nighttime flares.
– Keep a fire extinguisher on board(some vessels are required to) in case of any fire.
– If towing a person on skis, tube, or other device, the boat needs to have a rearview mirror along with an observer of 13 years or older.
– Bring your cell phone. Another option is to keep a VHF radio on your boat. Either way, having a form of communication is important.
– Before departing, leave a float plan with a relative or friend. Include on the float plan: boat description, registration number, and any other specifics. Also state where you are going, along with your planned departure and return time. Lastly, include the name, phone number, address, and emergency contact of each person on board.
– Learn to swim.
– Be conscious of the weather. Check the forecast before leaving on your adventure, and watch for incoming storms and other signs of weather changes. Get off of the water when necessary. Be prepared if bad weather hits – it can pop up without notice sometimes. Put on lifejackets, slow down, turn on lights, avoid metal if lightning starts. It may be safer to ride out the storm in the water-make that decision and prepare.
– Assign an assistant skipper in case the captain becomes injured or debilitated. The skipper will need to have common boating knowledge in order to get the whole crew back to land.
– Be sure everyone is seated properly and not at risk of falling out.
– Don’t drink and boat – avoid alcohol and drug use.
– Keep an eye out for diver-down flags and stay at least 50 feet away.
– Use common sense and be alert. This includes monitoring your speed depending on where you are and if it is crowded, along with being aware of the surrounding vessels. Keep a safe speed and distance.
– Pay attention to navigational aids and buoys- they are there for a reason. Know the symbols and meaning behind them so you are able to follow them correctly.
– At night, look out for the lights of other vessels.
– Check the state laws and abide by them.
– One of the most obvious tips is to take a boating course, where you will learn all of these things and more.
Anything can happen while out boating, whether you are on a small lake or the enormous ocean. Be prepared for what nature or other people and boats may throw your way. Don’t ruin a boating trip with a small, avoidable mistake. Get outside, enjoy your boat, make fun and happy memories, but be smart and stay safe!