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National Safe Boating Council: Choose to Boat Safely

Choosing to boat safely goes a long way in minimizing risks and liability while maximizing enjoyment on waterways. It is important to act responsibly to protect lives and property. The best insurance policy for a great boating experience is to incorporate knowledge, wisdom, preparedness, precaution, experience, discretion and judgment. Provide protection for those with whom you boat by following these tip from the National Safe Boating Council.

Boat with knowledge

Learn the basics about boating and pay close attention to the laws that pertain to the area where you boat. Inquire to make sure what obligations and regulations must be met before boating. An excellent array of courses are offered through the state, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons as well as other local agencies and commercial providers.

Boat with wisdom

Wear a life jacket! Bass tournament participants, whitewater thrill-seekers and top boaters wear theirs and so should you. If unexpectedly thrown into the water, it is much more difficult to put on a life jacket after the fact. Don’t take the risk!

Boat with preparedness

Carrying the required equipment will vary on different types of boats. This equipment will be important in an emergency situation where help is at a distance. Be prepared for self-rescue or to assist others with these devices.

Powerboats should carry: A life jacket for each person on board, a throwable personal floatation device, fire extinguisher, running lights for night time or poor visibility operation, sound signaling device, visual distress signals such as flares or a flag, and an anchor and line.

Additional items for rescue, protection and comfort: tool kit, first aid kit, weather radio, cell phone or marine band radio, bailing device, throw line for rescue, charts or map of area, extra fuel, sun protection, extra set of dry clothes, foul weather gear, insect repellant, and drinking water to prevent dehydration. 

Boat with experience

Boaters have a responsibility to maneuver boats in a safe manner and to take appropriate action to avoid collision in accordance with navigation rules.

Boats typically meet each other in the following situation:

Head-on: When two boats meet bow to bow, both boats should alter course to the starboard (right) to avoid each other.

Overtaking: A boat being passed by another must maintain its course and speed while the overtaking vessel passes. The overtaking boat may pass on either side.

Crossing: All boats have a danger zone. The zone is approximately from the twelve o’clock to the four o’clock range, if the bow of the boat is at twelve o’clock. In a crossing situation, the boat in the danger zone (ahead and to the right) continues on course while the other boats stay clear by slowing down or altering course to pass behind.

When boating it is critical to maintain a proper lookout to avoid collisions with other boats and objects. Operating at safe speed is also important and is impacted by visibility, wind, water conditions, currents, boat maneuverability, traffic density, and proximity of hazards and objects in the water.

Boat with discretion

Always be aware of weather conditions, they can change quickly. Check weather conditions for the area which you plan to boat before leaving for the destination. The National Weather Service broadcasts 24 hours a day. Transmitters are places across the country, providing the latest weather information directly for the service. This information can be accessed through a radio with a weather band.

Always keep an eye to the sky when on the water. Forecast, although helpful, can sometimes change. Squalls and thunderstorms can quickly approach and create dangerous situations. If trapped on the water during a storm, make sure all passengers are wearing a life jacket. Reduce the boat’s speed and head toward the nearest safe shore or harbor.

Boat with caution 

Be sure to file a float plan. A written float plan records where you are going and when you plan to return. It contains information that could prove useful if you do not check in at your estimated time of return.

Float plan information: Trip leader, additional passengers, towing vehicle, trailer, trip information (leaving from, date and time), communication or signal equipment (radio, call name, cell phone number) and emergency contact information.

Boat with judgment

Waterways are second only to highways when it comes to accidental deaths. Many factors impact an individual when underway. Sun, wind, noise, vibration from the boat, motion and dehydration all act as stressors to the body when boating. These stressors can negatively impact a person’s balance, vision, coordination and judgment. When alcohol is added to the mix, all of the negative impacts can be seriously magnified.

Not only is it important for the operator to boat sober, passengers also have an obligation to act responsibily. Erratic behavior or sudden, unexpected movements can result in injury, capsizing or a fall overboard. Alcohol can cause even greater disorientation to a person thrown into the water. So for captain and crew, boat safe and boat sober!

For more information on the National Safety Boating Council visit safeboatingcouncil.org.

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