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:
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. Below are some essential items your safety kit should include.
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. Some states also require children to wear life jackets at all times. Choose a life jacket that is right for your height and weight, plus:
There are many types of life jackets on the market. Make sure the one you buy is appropriate for your on-water activity.
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.
Always follow your boat’s capacity restriction. Overloading your boat with passengers or equipment can unbalance your craft.
After refueling your boat, open all the hatches and smell for fumes. If detected, don’t start the engine.
Carbon monoxide can accumulate in and around your boat and unexpectedly knock you or your guests unconscious. Be aware of all the places fumes and gases can accumulate, including:
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.
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.
Depending on the wind, the current and your type of boat, docking can be a challenge. As you approach the dock or shore, make sure your bumpers are out to prevent damage to your craft, reduce your speed and make sure the docking lines are secured. If the wind is blowing towards the shore, bring the boat about two feet from the dock and the wind will gently pull it in. You can then secure it with lines. If the wind is blowing away from the shore, approach the dock at a 20- to 30-degree angle to compensate for the wind. Then secure the bow line.
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. There are several online courses available, including a few free courses. The Boat US Foundation offers a free online boating safety course developed specifically for each individual state. The U.S. Coast Guard offers an additional list of online and hands-on courses for boating safety.
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.
No matter how much you prepare to keep yourself, passengers and your boat safe, accidents can happen. Learn more about protecting your prized vessel with boat insurance.
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