Boat Safety and Security on the Water
A critical component of all boater education courses is safety and security on the water, and anyone new to boating is advised to take a course before casting off the docklines. You’ll enjoy your new lifestyle more than ever if you know how to take a few simple precautions. Visit Boat-ed.com for information on taking a safety course.
While a course will provide comprehensive safety instruction, here are a few simple tips to get you started:
- Take advantage of a free Vessel Safety Check. Find an examiner near you.
- Create a float plan, and share it with someone on land. There should be at least one person who knows where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone.
- Have a pre-departure checklist to make sure you have everything you need onboard and you’ve taken all appropriate safety precautions. Discover Boating has an excellent sample checklist available online.
- All boaters become amateur meteorologists, because the weather can make or break your float plan. Be aware of current and forecast conditions. Dropping the hook in that lovely cove or harbor for an afternoon of picnicking and swimming might not be so relaxing, or comfortable, if the wind and waves are piping right into it. Use the forecast to plan your outing, and if there is a wind, sea or weather advisory, consider postponing the trip.
- Make sure you have a personal flotation device (PFD) for every person on board. Everyone should wear one. Children, in particular should wear PFDs at all times, whether the boat is running, at anchor or tied up to a dock. No one expects an accident; being prepared is priceless.
Everyone should to be sitting down while the boat is under way, but if you do need to get up, keep one hand on a solid part of the boat for added safety and security.
If you are boating with children, assign one adult (and not the captain) to keep an eye on them.
- Establish safety rules with children before leaving the dock. Don’t allow kids to perch in the bow or dangle their feet over the sides, despite the popularity of both. All children need to be properly seated while the boat is running.
- When you reach open water and throttle up, be mindful of the fact that boats don’t have brakes — or seatbelts. It takes time to complete a turn or come to a complete stop. Be prudent with your speed, particularly on inland or reservoir lakes that have twists and turns. You have to anticipate what’s around the next bend.
- Make sure that more than one adult knows how to handle the boat and operate the marine radio.
- Be aware of your boat’s condition and location at all times, just in case you would need to report that information over the marine radio.
Encourage children to be part of the crew; practice a man-overboard drill with a partially filled plastic container or even a PFD-clad doll. Practice the “rescue” until everyone feels comfortable and knows what to do. (If you don’t have children but plan on boating with pets, the same tip applies — pets can go overboard as well.)
Also, take the time to learn more about your state’s ‘specific’ boating laws and regulations. They can vary state by state. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators is an excellent resource. If you’re interested in state-specific information, with phone numbers, mailing addresses and email addresses — as well as your state’s Department of Natural Resources Web site click here.
tl;dr Take a boat safety class, make sure everyone aboard understands how to deal with an emergency, there are lots of great free online resources for boaters.