The weather’s finally getting warmer and it’s time to enjoy your time out on the water with friends and family. Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned boating expert or a newbie, it’s a good idea to freshen up on boating safety, so that you and those you care about most can have a fun, memorable experience out on the water.
Unfortunately, boating accidents claim lives every single year. To prevent a potential tragedy, follow these safety precautions before taking the boat out:
Have your boat inspected. The Vessel Safety Check is a free public service that is offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron volunteers. Experts will make sure that your boat meets the minimum safety requirements and also that you have the necessary safety equipment onboard that can save lives and get help in the event of an emergency.
Make sure you have plenty of life jackets on board. The easiest way to keep yourself safe while you’re on a boat is by wearing a life jacket. Eighty-two percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket, according to Coast Guard studies. At minimum, you should have a life jacket readily available for each person on board your boat. Laws do require that you wear a life jacket while on board as well. In states where no children’s life jacket law in in place, a U.S. Coast Guard interim rule states that children under the age of 13 are required to wear a life jacket that is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Develop and communicate a float plan. All important information pertaining to your trip including contact information for your trip leader, the type of boat you’re using, and where you plan to use your boat should be included in the plan.
Remember that consuming alcohol while on a boat is not a good idea. Sixteen percent of all recreational boating deaths have been linked to the consumption of alcohol. Although it’s not illegal to drink while boating, think of the situation the same way as driving a car under the influence of alcohol. Your reaction time is impaired and you could jeopardize the lives of yourself and your loved ones.
Pay attention to the weather. Before taking your boat out on the water, take a look at the weather forecast to make sure no thunderstorms will be on the way. Windy days also present certain hazards while boating. Waves can potentially capsize smaller vessels or passengers could fall overboard.
Keep your boating skills sharp. Operational error accounts for over 70% of boating accidents each year. You can improve your boating skills by enrolling in educational courses.
Know how to swim. If you’re out on the water in any situation, you should know how to swim. Otherwise, like it or not, you are putting yourself at risk. Floatation devices can help, but only so much.