Regardless of how many years you've been boating, safety must be your first concern.
Be Weather Wise. Sudden wind shifts, lightning flashes and choppy water all can be indicators that a storm is approaching. Be attune to local weather and keep a portable radio to regularly check weather reports.
Bring extra gear you may need. Keep on board a flashlight, extra batteries, matches, a map of where you are, flares, sun tan lotion, first aid kit and sunglasses. Put things that need to be protected in a watertight pouch or a container that floats.
Use this handy checklist to verify that you have the proper safety equipment and have checked your boat systems for operational safety. (See your local United States Coast Guard Auxiliary for more details of the safety features listed below.)
- Vessel Numbering
- Life Jackets
- Fire Extinguishers
- Navigation Lights
- Visual Distress Signals
- Fuel and Fuel System
- Anchor with Line
- Paddle or Oar
- Manual Pump or Bailer
- Electrical Installation
- Galley Installation
Tell someone: where you're going, who is with you and how long you'll be away. Then get in the habit of checking your boat, equipment, boat balance, engine and fuel supply before leaving.
Ventilate after fueling. Open hatches, run blower and most importantly, carefully sniff for gasoline fumes in the fuel and engine areas before starting your engine.
Keep fishing and hunting gear clean and well-packed. A loose fish hook can cause a lot of pain and ruin a great outing. Bring an extra length of line to secure boat or equipment.
When changing seats or moving about, stay low and near center line of a small boat.
Wear a personal flotation device (Life jacket).
Be ready for trouble when a powerboat passes you in a narrow channel. As the lead boat, which always has the right of way, stay on your side of the channel and maintain a steady speed so that the overtaking vessel can pass you safely. Use your radio to discuss this with the passing boat.
Anchor from bow, not stern. Use anchor line length at least five times longer than water depth.
Take a boat safety class. As an extra benefit, you may earn lower boat insurance costs. For information about boating classes, call 1-800-336-BOAT.
Boating and Alcohol
Over 1,000 people die in boating accidents every year. Nine out of ten of them drown. About half those deaths involve alcohol. It's a fact, too, that 50 percent of men who drown have their fly unzipped! Four hours of exposure to powerboat noise, vibration, sun, glare, wind and motion produces a kind of "boater's hypnosis." This effect may slow a person's reaction time to that caused by alcohol consumption. Adding alcohol to this sun exposure intensifies the effects.
Operating a vessel while intoxicated became a specific federal offense effective January 13, 1988. The final rule set standards for determining when an individual is intoxicated. If the blood alcohol content is .10 percent (.08 percent in some states) or higher for operators of recreational vessels being used only for pleasure, violators are subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 or criminal penalty not to exceed $5,000, one year imprisonment or both.
Take Time to Be Safe
- Observe the Rules of the Road
- Carry a life preserver for each person on board: keep life preservers handy and PUT THEM ON in adverse conditions.
- Instruct at least one of your crew in the rudiments of handling your craft in case you are injured or become incapacitated.
- See that all hands know what to do in an emergency and where to find the safety equipment.
- Check weather and tides before going out.
- Check the gasoline system, and make sure that the tanks are vented and that bilges are free of vapors, oil, waste and grease.
- Be sure that you have enough fuel with plenty to spare.
- Check your battery, lights and other equipment.
- Reduce speed through all anchorage and moorage areas.
- Reduce speed at night and during periods of poor visibility.
- Maintain a proper lookout at all times.
- Take your time in buying a boat or equipment: a bad "bargain" could cost you your life.
- Overload your boat or allow passengers to move about in a way that may change its balance.
- Leave shore in a leaky, damaged or poorly constructed boat.
- Venture into dangerous or restricted areas.
- Operate near swimmers or divers.
- Forget that your wake can endanger others.
- Use gasoline stoves.
- Lie at anchor with a short scope of line.
- Mix liquor or drugs with boating.
A boat operator is responsible for any damage to persons or property caused by his wake!!!