Boats are great, but you’ll want to stay safe while you’re on the water. Review these safety tips and you’re sure to have fun with friends and family while out on the waves.
Inspect Your Boat
An important element of water safety is the sea-worthiness of your craft. You’ll want to check everything before your head out. You can either get an in-person or online free vessel safety check from the US Coast Guard, or perform your own before you launch. Common items you should inspect include:
- Engine inspection – if your boat has an in-board motor, pop the hatch and check for leaks and excess water in the bilge. If your boat has an outboard motor, inspect for leaks and strong gas odors, which may indicate an engine problem. Of course, you will want to ensure you have sufficient fuel too.
- Radio & lights – test your lights and communication equipment and check all connections for corrosion.
- Emergency beacon – the best protection on the water is preparation. If you have an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), test it before you’re in open water.
- Lifejackets – ensure you have a proper lifejacket for every person on board. Three-quarters of fatal boating accidents are from drowning, and 85 percent of victims were not wearing a life jacket.
- Fire extinguisher – check your fire extinguisher periodically to ensure it is charged and useable.
- Emergency/survival kit – at the very least, you should have a well-stocked first aid kit and emergency food supplies for a day.
Create a Float Plan
Letting someone else know where you’re going and when you plan to return is very important. A float plan provides vital information should something go awry. Whether you inform a family member or your local marina is up to you, but tell someone. It narrows the search should rescue crews need to find you.
A basic float plan includes your name, address, and phone number as well as the specifics about your boat such as the boat type and registration. Of course, you’ll want to include a trip itinerary, preferably with a map.
Check the Weather
This might seem obvious, but weather often changes very quickly. A local weather service with radar is often the best places to find current and upcoming weather events.
If the forecast is iffy, don’t risk it. Stormy weather is irritating on land, but it can be a nightmare on the water, especially when there’s high winds and lightning.
Know Your Boat
Handling a boat is fun, but not everyone knows how to do it properly. If you’re new to boating or you want share the adventure, ensure all operators know boat safety, operations, and how to handle the vessel.
Some states require boat education courses, and with good reason. Education prepares you for problems that can occur on the water and teaches you how to respond. You can take a course locally or online, and since 71 percent of deaths on boats involved operators without boating safety instruction, it makes perfect sense to stay safe.
Use Common Sense
The U.S. Coast Guard that reports recreational boating accidents and deaths continue to rise each year. People choose to drink alcohol while on the water, which impairs judgment and may lead to unsafe speeds and decisions or missing potential dangers.
Some people also overload their boat and their passengers stand while the boat’s in motion. To make matters worse, they’re not wearing a lifejacket and many don’t know how to swim.
You don’t need to be an expert swimmer to ride in a boat, but you should at least have basic survival skills. You can take swimming lessons through the American Red Cross or other agencies. They’re not expensive and anyone can learn.
Have fun on the water, but stay safe, too. If you follow these top 5 boat safety tips, you’ll have a blast and greatly reduce the chances of problems while on the water. Check with your insurance agent so you know you have proper coverage before you head out. You’ll want to protect your assets and yourself from potential risks so you can have a truly worry-free adventure.