There’s no better way to enjoy the summer than getting up on the deck of your boat and cruising out into open water. It’s just you and your loved ones feeling the sun on your face and the ocean breeze in your hair. It’s paradise. There’s nothing that can ruin your summer faster, however, than a sudden accident out on the water.
A boating accident is going to mean expensive damage to your vessel, but it could also involve severe risks to the health of you and your friends and family. You don’t want that. Plan for a fun, relaxing summer on the water without any accidents or unhappy surprises by using these helpful safety tips.
Every time you cast off from the dock, you should make sure you’re well-prepared for any emergency. On an especially small vessel or jet ski staying around the dock, you’re not going to need or be able to take much more than your life jacket, some water and maybe a whistle. If you’re on a larger boat or you’re going out farther, you’ll need to take some time to gather the necessary supplies. At the very least you should have a flashlight, a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, and some rope.
Get the Boat Checked
If it’s been a while since you’ve used the boat or you’re about to head out for a more extended trip away from shore, schedule some maintenance and get a free safety examination from the U.S. Coast Guard. Your mechanic should look at it to make sure you won’t have any unexpected problems, and the safety examination will make sure you have the right emergency supplies on hand as well.
Don’t Drink and Sail
While packing a cooler and taking the boat out for a day of sailing and beer may sound like a good time, you may be putting yourself and others at risk. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the most significant factor that contributes to boat accident fatalities. “It’s not only unsafe but also illegal in all 50 states”, says Jason Chalik, founding partner of Chalik Law. “Make sure you have a designated skipper every time you take your boat out”.
Before you take your family’s safety in your hands, take the time to prepare yourself. You want to know what you’re doing, especially in a larger boat or a crowded marina. Take a short class in-person or online to learn about the rules and responsibilities on the water and be sure you’re comfortable behind the wheel of your vessel.
Test the Life Jackets
Don’t just grab a life jacket for each person and go. You need to try on your life jackets and check that you have the right sizes and right types of life jackets for your needs. They should be in good condition and fit your height and weight appropriately. Children may need to wear a life jacket the entire time they’re on the water.
Watch the Weather
A lot of boating safety is preparation and situational awareness. In the morning before you head out, you should check the forecast, so you’re well-informed of the weather you’ll be experiencing. An incoming storm or an unusually windy day could mean more dangerous or unpredictable conditions. You’ll need to prepare some contingencies for capsizing, flooding or other problems if you decide to go out in bad weather.
Steer Clear of Other Vessels
As the captain of your ship, you are responsible for everyone’s safety. That includes staying at a safe speed and keeping a reasonable distance from other boats in the area. Staying alert and conscientious about your surroundings and the other boats trying to get by is essential for avoiding collisions. Larger boats are slower and less agile, so you should stay away and avoid them instead of expecting them to avoid you.
Careful Where You Swim
Be very cautious about when and where you let your passengers get into the water around the boat. They should wait until the boat isn’t running and stay away from the engine. You’ll also want to avoid swimming close to the marina or while there are many other boats in the immediate surroundings.
Don’t Overload the Boat
You should know the limits and abilities of your boat very well. That means its capability out on the water, but also its weight limit. You could throw your boat off balance and put everyone in danger if you fill your boat with people or items beyond its weight capacity.
Check for Fumes
You need to be alert to sudden changes in your boat’s behavior, at the dock and on the water. Dangerous fumes from your fuel can accumulate and put you and your passengers at risk if you’re not careful. Check for odd smells after you refuel and be conscientious of enclosed spaces or blocked exhaust vents where toxic gases can build up around your boat.
Use Common Sense
A lot of boating safety comes down to staying alert at all times and using your common sense. Keep your head clear and use good judgment, and your friends will be in good hands. Put in the work so that you can take your boat out and relax without worrying about putting the people you love at risk.