“I love the feeling of the wind and water spray through my hair!” Steve yelled as their boat cut through the clear water like a knife.
His friend shot him a puzzled look as Steve was nearly bald. In return Steve smiled a mischievous grin and pushed the throttle down further.
Who doesn’t love the experience of spending a sunny day with friends on the water? With everyone gearing up for summer and the lifting of restrictions, exciting adventures are right around the corner.
But before these fantasies become reality, there are some “business items” that need to be addressed.
Let’s jump right in and get our feet wet!
Navigation Rules and Boating Safety Courses
A few simple rules will ensure you and your passengers are safe on the water.
Every boat owner should have a copy of the Navigation Rules, which can be picked up in any boating supply store. They provide actions for boaters to help avoid collisions, and cover steering rules similar to the “rules of the road” for a motor vehicle.
It’s wise to create a solid foundation centered around operational and safety instruction by taking a course on boat safety.
Some areas they cover are:
- Reading the weather
- Electronic navigation skills
- Boat handling
Visit the U.S. Coast Guard website for a list of great courses to take.
Schedule a Vessel Safety Check
When it comes to operating a high powered vessel around others, shortcuts should generally be avoided. But there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Aimed at making boating safe for individuals, a free vessel safety check is offered where the inspector will come to you at a convenient time. Free…convenient…this is one “shortcut” you’d be hard pressed not to take advantage of.
Boat Safety and Life Jackets
Everybody loves feeling the sun on their skin, but resist the temptation to boat without a life jacket.
Why? Most boat related drownings happen on nice days. And it’s estimated that over 80% of boating fatalities could have been prevented if life jackets were worn at the time.
You probably remember wearing a large orange life jacket as a kid that made you feel like a marshmallow. But today they are flexible, thin, built into clothing, and even inflatable.
Other activities they should be used for:
- Water skiing and towed activities
- Personal watercraft (PWC)
Prepare a Float Plan for Emergency Use
In an emergency situation, it’s difficult to remember and convey accurate facts.
Whether you’re a jet skier, sport fisherman, or power boater, taking the time to craft a detailed plan of the upcoming activity is important.
While the operator of the boat is the one who prepares a plan, everyone onboard should inform a loved one or friend of details related to the trip. Always include a photo of the vessel with your float plan, and leave it with a reliable person.
Avoid Alcohol on your Trip
About a third of all recreational boat fatalities are caused by alcohol, and a BUI (Boating Under Influence) can carry with it fines, jail time, and a revocation of your boating license.
There’s many ways to enjoy your day in the sun without alcohol. Be sure to pack a variety of cold drinks such as water, sports drinks, soda, or sparkling water. Also remember fatigue sets in quicker while on the water, so limit the amount of time for your trip.
Your safety and that of your passengers should be the number one priority, and keeping a “dry boat” rule is both wise and responsible.
Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
Once it’s burned, such as during boat operation, gasoline produces this gas.
Poisoning from carbon monoxide is preventable. Symptoms are similar to alcohol intoxication and seasickness, and it can affect you while anchored, moored, or while operating your boat out on the water.
It can accumulate through:
- Blocked exhaust outlets
- Exhaust from another vessel
- Back drafting
- While idling, stopped, or at slow speeds
- Exhaust gas trapped in enclosed spaces
- Canvas enclosures that are inadequately ventilated
There are steps you should take each time you embark on a boat trip that include educating your passengers and knowing what things to look for in preventing CO incidents.
Additionally, every year a qualified marine technician should perform a detailed boat inspection and repair/replace necessary parts.
Paying Attention to Propellor Safety
As the boat owner, propeller related injuries can be prevented.
Make sure you wear your engine cut-off switch lanyard at all times, as the engine will shut off if the lanyard is removed from the switch. You’ll also want to assign a passenger to keep watch over the propeller area when people are in the water.
A final recommendation is to purchase propeller safety devices.
- Ringed propellers
- Anti-feedback steering
- Propulsion alternatives
- Propeller guards
- Wireless cut-off switches
Importance of Marine Communications
Cell phones are convenient but many people forget they use land based repeaters and towers, which limits their range considerably.
Fixed-mount or hand-held Very High Frequency (VHF) marine-band radios are far more superior when it comes to boating.
Some reasons include:
- Higher water resistance
- Allow you to “broadcast” to several boaters at a time
- Longer range
VHFs are monitored 24/7 in Coast Guard jurisdictions, and also allow your boat to be tracked by Vessel Assist towers and most boat towing servicers. Cell phones do not have this capability.
They give boaters access to:
- NOAA weather broadcasts
- Safety and distress calling
- Communications between ship and shore