If you feel like a fish out of water when you’re not on the boat, you’re not alone. Millions of people flock to lakes and the ocean to enjoy water activities this time of year.
But it’s important not to sacrifice safety when having fun, especially when it comes to boating. Taking the proper precautions before setting sail should always be a top priority. Here are some boating safety tips to keep in mind:
Consider a free vessel safety check. The U.S. Coast Guard offers recreational boaters a free Vessel Safety Check every year. The courtesy check is performed at your boat (whether that be in a slip, at a launch ramp, or in your driveway) by a certified Vessel Examiner. More information can be found on the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary website.
- Share your travel plans with someone onshore. Let them know when you intend to depart, where you’re going, and when you’re returning.
- Check the weather forecast in advance. Don’t take chances if the weather looks iffy, and if there’s a sudden change for the worse while out on the water, head back to land as quickly as possible.
- Everyone on board should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets. And if the boat is 16 feet or longer, an approved throwable device should be onboard the vessel, too.
- Be prepared for an emergency. Stock the boat with a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, maps, flares, day signals, and anything else you think is appropriate to respond to an emergency situation.
- Make sure everything is in working order before shoving off. This includes boat lights, radios and other communication devices, as well as the boat’s electrical and fuel systems.
- Don’t consume alcohol or drugs before or while operating the boat. Both can impair reaction times and heighten sensitivity to such things as sunlight, wind, and noise.
- Follow the rules. Whether they’re general in nature or specific to the location you’re boating in, obey the regulations. That includes maintaining a safe speed based on conditions such as traffic, visibility, and the boat’s ability to maneuver. And, after leaving the boat launch, maintain a no-wake speed for a distance that’s both safe and legally acceptable.
- Attach your boat and vehicle keys to a floating bobber. You may also want to invest in a dry bag to help keep personal items like cell phones, wallets, and purses from getting wet.
- Always have the boat’s registration and certificate on the vessel. For more information on the registration process for boats in your state, visit DMV.org.
Remember to keep these boating safety tips in mind while out on the water, and that ultimately, the boat owner and/or captain is responsible for the safety of everyone on board. Happy boating!