COVID-19 is forcing everyone to navigate uncharted waters, including boaters. In honor of this week’s National Safe Boating Week, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the National Safe Boating Council encourage boaters to follow social distancing guidelines for safe outdoor recreation.
“Year after year, state and national statistics show that life jackets save lives,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “We’re making great strides in educating visitors to follow social distancing guidelines outdoors, but it’s equally important to help protect our friends and family by reminding them to wear their life jackets while boating.”
Ohio statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of the death in 69% of all boating fatalities in 2019. Of those 13 total deaths, 38% were reported as not wearing their life jackets. There are many U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for different activities like boating, fishing, paddling, or hunting from a boat.
“When selecting a life jacket, pick one that fits you snugly and comfortably, and that you will want to wear,” said Peg Phillips, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council. “You’ll need to consider your body type, swim skills, recreational water activity, and environment.”
ODNR and the National Safe Boating Council offer these safety tips for boating and social distancing:
- Follow state and local guidance for outdoor recreation.
- Share a float plan with a family member or friend with the details of your trip in the event of an emergency.
- Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Carry all required boating safety equipment such as flares, navigation lights, a horn or whistle, and a first aid kit.
- Limit the people aboard your boat to people in your immediate household.
- Stay at least 6 feet away from other people who do not live in your house.
- Maintain safe distance at the fuel dock or loading up at the marina.
- Wash hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer, such as after touching a marina gate or fuel pump.
- Don’t raft up to other boaters or pull up onto a beach next to someone else as it could put you in close proximity to others.
- Go right from your house to the boat and back so that you don’t have unnecessary contact with anyone.
- Pack food, water, and other things you may need as restaurants and marina stores may not be open.
- Never boat under the influence.
- No distracted boating and travel at safe speeds.
- Have more than one communication device that works when wet.
More safe boating tips and educational resources can be found at safeboatingcampaign.com. The Safe Boating Campaign is produced under a grant from the Sports Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund and administered by the U.S. Coast Guard.