The U.S. has over 11 million recreational boats registered. These boats are often used for short trips, fishing, parties, and fun weekends out in the water. Unfortunately, with the joy and freedom afforded by owning and operating a boat come the many responsibilities associated with it. Each year, thousands of boat-related incidents have resulted to injuries, damage to property, and even fatalities. If you own or operate a boat, it is prudent to know the most critical steps to boating safety to protect yourself, your passengers, and your vessel.
Know the Rules. Before taking your boat out for a day in the sun, you should at least be familiar with state laws regarding water vessels. If unfamiliar with boating safety rules, at least take a course. Many courses can be finished within a day, whether online or in-person. When you know the rules about using a boat, you not only learn how to operate your vessel safely but also do your part in keeping other boaters safe. Keep in mind that you are sharing the waters with them.
Have Your Vessel Checked Regularly. Make sure that the vessel is sea-worthy and that any and all equipment and accessories are in good working condition. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxilliary (USCG) offers a safety check for local vessels free of charge. Prepare a checklist of things you need before going onboard, such as a first-aid kit, a tool kit, enough water and food, alarms and emergency signals, etc. Bring emergency accessories and gadgets as well, such as a dinghy, flares, emergency lights, cellphones, two-way radios, and life jackets.
Prepare a Float Plan. The USCG's Float Plan is a tool you should fill out before leaving. Ideally, this form must have been completed before you leave. It should contain information such as your name, the type of boat you are using, the name of the boat, number of occupants, when you intend to embark and where you will be, and when you intend to be back. This form may be e-mailed to someone you trust who will notify the authorities in case you do not return at the time and date you indicated.
Always Check the Weather. Although it is not likely you will be allowed out in case of stormy weather, you should at least know the kind of conditions you can expect so you are prepared. Don't Mix Alcohol With Your Water Adventure. If you are operating the boat, it is the cardinal rule of boating safety that you are sober. This will ensure that you have good balance, eye-hand coordination, vision, and hearing. You will also be able to exercise better judgment.
Play It Safe.\r\nSometimes, even the most prudent prep plans prove to be imperfect. If conditions change or if you sense something is not right, err on the side of safety and go back to the pier. No amount of retrospect can take back what you could lose in a second of bad judgment when you are out in the water. Reach out to the experts at Propeller Depot if you have any questions around general boating safety.