No matter how much experience you have, it’s always a good idea for everyone to review boating safety rules before departures. Read below to familiarize yourself with these 10 basic boating safety tips:
- Be Weather-wise
Always check local weather conditions before departure- TV and radio forecasts can be a good source of information. If you notice darkening clouds, volatile and rough changing winds, or sudden drops in temperature, play it safe by getting off the water.
- Follow a Pre-Departure Checklist
Proper boating safety means being prepared for any possibility on the water. From compliance with fire safety regulations to tips for fueling up, following a pre-departure checklist is the best way to make sure no boating safety rules or precautions have been forgotten.
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- Use Common Sense
One of the most important parts of boating safety is to use your common sense. This means operating at a safe speed at all times, especially in crowded areas. Be alert at all times, and steer clear of large vessels and watercraft that can be restricted in their ability to stop or turn. Also be respectful of buoys and other navigational aids, all of which have been placed there for one reason only- to ensure your own boating safety.
- Designate an Assistant Skipper
Make sure more than only one person on board is familiar with all aspects of your boat’s handling, operations, and other boating safety tips. If the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated in any way, it’s important to make sure someone else can follow the proper boating safety rules to get everyone else back to shore.
- Develop a Float Plan
Whether you choose to inform a family member or staff at your local marina, always be sure to let someone else know your float plan. This should include where you’re going and how long you’re going to be gone.
A float plan can include the following information: name, address, and phone number of trip leader; name and phone number of all passengers; boat type and registration information; trip itinerary; and types of communication and signal equipment onboard.
- Make Proper Use of Lifejackets
Did you know that the majority of drowning victims are the result of boating accidents were found not to be wearing a Lifejacket? Make sure that your family and friends aren’t part of this statistic by assigning and fitting each member of your onboard team with a lifejacket-prior to departure.
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- Avoid Alcohol
Practice boating safety at all times by saving the alcohol for later. The probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved, and studies have also shown that the affect of alcohol is exacerbated by external effects such as sun and wind.
- Learn to Swim
If you’re going to be in and around the water, proper boating safety means knowing how to swim. Local organizations such as the American Red Cross and others offer training for all ages and abilities- check to see what classes are offered in your area.
- Take a Boating Course
Beginning boaters and experienced experts alike need be familiar with boating safety rules of operation. Boater education requirements vary by state- some require validated completion of at least one boating safety course. Regardless of your individual state's requirements, it's always important to be educated, aware and prepared for every circumstance that might arise. You can learn boating safety rules by taking a local community course, or there are online tutorials to help educate novice boaters.
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- Consider a Free Vessel Safety Check
Take advantage of a free Vessel Safety Check from the US Coast Guard (see links below). They offer complimentary boat examinations to verify the presence and condition of certain Safety Equipment required by State and the Federal regulations. Free of charge, they’ll provide a specialist to check out your boat and make helpful boating safety tips and recommendations. They also offer virtual online safety checks as well. Find a vessel Safety check examiner closest to you.
The following resources will help you learn more about boating education and instruction:
- Boat-ed.com - Official boating safety courses and online tests for your boat license.
- US Power Squadron and Coast Guard Auxiliaries - These organizations offer free vessel safety checks, boater education and more tips for staying safe on the water.
- Boater101.com - Instruction on water and boating safety rules.
- Boatsafe.com – Information on safety equipment requirements and age restrictions by state.