There’s nothing quite like spending the day on your boat with family and friends. Just be sure safety is foremost in your mind. From must-have safety gear to how to safely operate a boat, check out these important boating safety tips:
- Be prepared with a boat safety kit
You can’t always predict an emergency, so be prepared for any situation. Your boat safety kit should be kept on board no matter the size of your boat.
- Flashlight – A flashlight and extra batteries can help you see around your boat in the dark and allow you to be seen if you run out of fuel or if your craft stalls.
- Duct tape– Spring a leak? Temporarily bandage the hole with duct tape.
- Whistle– As a recognized signal calling for help on the water, a waterproof whistle is another must-have.
- Ropes– These are critical for pulling someone in who has fallen overboard, securing your craft to the dock and tying down loose items in extreme weather.
- Garbage bags– Use them as rain ponchos and protection for items on board.
- Life jackets– You should have a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for every person on board. Read on for information on picking out the right life jackets.
- Bring the proper life jackets
Life jackets do more than simply keep you afloat. Many are designed to turn an unconscious person face up and even help prevent hypothermia. By law, all boats must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board.
- Check the weather beforehand
Warm, sunny days are ideal for boating, but you can’t always predict when a storm will roll in. Varying gusts of wind and choppy water are signs of an approaching storm. And even if it’s a warm spring day, the water could instead reflect winter temperatures. In the event that your boat capsizes or you and your passengers get wet, make sure you have a plan to seek help and get dry.
- Use common sense on the water
Rules on the water aren’t much different than rules on the road. It’s important to use common sense, such as staying alert at all times, operating at a safe speed and ensuring that passengers stay safely within the boat’s railings.
- Follow proper anchoring procedures
Having the right anchor isn’t enough. To keep the wind from dragging your boat, you may need to drop two anchors in a V-formation at the front of the craft to keep it from drifting. To help prevent the tide from lifting your anchor, you may need to drop it in deeper water – about 20-30 feet or so.
- Take a boating safety course
The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that 70% of boating accidents are caused by operator error. Before you leave the dock, make sure you know the rules and your responsibilities.
- Get your boat checked
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons offer free Vessel Safety Checks. There is no charge, and there are no consequences if your boat doesn’t pass.