During a summer vacation about a decade ago, my family rented a boat for a bit of recreational fun, and it was disastrous. No one had any real experience with boats, so it was a struggle just to drive it. The engine also failed at one point, leaving us stranded for a while until a fellow group stopped and helped us. To top it all off, we came *this* close to getting into an accident with another group of inexperienced boaters. What a nightmare.
Luckily, there were no serious accidents, but our experience showed how dangerous and unpredictable a boat ride (combined with our inexperience) can be. According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), someone is injured or killed in a boating accident every two and half hours.
We’re right in the middle of National Safe Boating Week, so there’s no better time to learn how to go boating properly and safely. Here are nine safety tips to help make your voyage a safe one.
Safe Boating Tips
Take a Boating Course
Every boater can benefit from taking a boating course. Beginners learn about important boating rules and regulations, and be prepared for an unexpected situation. More experienced boaters can refresh their knowledge for the new season.
Understand Laws, Rules and Regulations of Boating
Boating rules and regulations can change yearly and vary from state to state, so make sure to stay updated and fully aware of your state’s unique set of laws.
Always Wear a Life Jacket
If you’re involved in a boating accident, your risk of drowning decreases significantly just by wearing a life jacket. There’s only a 1 in 66 chance of drowning when wearing a life jacket, but that increases to a 1 in 11 chance when not wearing one.
Do a Vessel Safety Check
Always make sure your boat is well-maintained to ensure that it doesn’t randomly break down. The USCG offers free safety checks to verify that your vessel meets safety regulations.
Equip the Boat with Emergency Supplies
Expect the unexpected – like an engine that fails or rapid weather change – and have equipment on hand to help you through the emergency. Always carry items such as extra life jackets, life raft, bottled water and visual distress signals.
Check the Weather
Before leaving the land for the sea, always check the weather. If you’re out on the water and you notice signs of turbulent weather, play it safe and head back to shore.
Inform Others of Your Float Plan
A float plan contains important information about you, your vessel, your planned location and trip duration, and communication equipment onboard. Share this with family members and staff at your marina, so they’ll be able to react swiftly should anything serious happen.
Be Wary of Other Boaters and Obstacles
Always keep an eye out for what other boaters are doing, you’ll never know when you might need to dodge them, or even lend a helping hand – you could be the hero to a stranded group. Also look out for any obstacles such as buoys.
Never Drink and Drive
Like when driving a car, you should never drink and drive a boat. The sun and wind – both prevalent when boating – can increase the effects of alcohol, and as a result, doubling the chance of a boating accident.