As summer approaches, boat days are soon to be the weekend norm for many boaters everywhere. While we cannot think of a better way to spend the weekend, we also want you to be safe while doing so. With that said, here is a boating safety guideline that will help ensure a dependable boating experience for you, your family, and your friends.
As always, before any boat day, check the weather reports, tides, and currents to ensure the day ahead is smooth sailing. If you plan to go on an extended trip, file a float plan with a close friend or family member so they are aware of your route and boating dates.
Now on to the equipment. First things first, check to see if you have enough life jackets on board for the maximum amount of people allowed on your boat. If non-swimmers are aboard, be sure to supply them with a life jacket to wear while on the water. Other safety equipment onboard should include a floatation device, such as a lifesling, VHF radio, USCG-approved first aid kit, horn, or another sound-producing device, manual propelling device, an up-to-date certified fire extinguisher, and flares in case of an emergency. Make sure everyone on board is aware of the whereabouts of these items. For added security, view ditch bag ideas.
Next, it is time to choose a second in command. If something happens to the driver and they are incapable of taking charge, the second-in-command can take over. Choose someone that is well-versed with boating and has experience, if possible. Demonstrate engine shutdown techniques before leaving the dock and disconnect the shore power cable. Before you start your engines, run the blower for about four minutes (if inboard gas engine), check the lubricating oil, fuel levels, and make sure buzzers sound on the engine panel. After you start your engines, check to make sure cooling water is flowing, check the oil pressure, and attach the kill switch lanyard (if applicable).
Your know-how while out of the water is just as significant and could help prevent troubling incidents. Know the waters you are cruising. Refer to local charts, pay attention to your GPS, stay within marked channels, and be mindful of tides and currents. Even though you checked weather reports prior to leaving, always be weather aware as things can change in an instance. You can also utilize the weather channels on your VHF radio and monitor channel 16 for emergency traffic reports. Another monitoring task is your fuel consumption use. Practice the “Three-Thirds Rule” (one-third outbound, one-third inbound, one-third reserve). Last but not least, always drink responsibly, especially if you are the one driving the boat; operating a boat while intoxicated is illegal.
After a fun-filled day of boating, it’s time to head back to the docks. Ensure your docks lines are protected from chafe and ensure snubbers are in place. Next, perform a safety routine inspection by ensuring all of your non-essential loads, like running lights and VHF radio are off; check your on-loads to be sure they are on, such as your bilge pump; pump the holding tank, and add holding tank treatment; connect the shore power cable and make sure it is protected from chafe; turn on the battery charger. Lastly, cancel your float plan by calling your trusted source.