Whether going out for a short fishing trip, or planning a long term voyage that’ll last several days, there is nothing quite like being on the water: worry free and without a concern in the world. Of course, some carefree attitudes could lead to boating accidents resulting in serious injury or possibly even death. By keeping these ten tips in mind, you can help to prevent accidents and learn how to boat safely in the future.
1. Check the Weather
When planning your trip, always be sure to keep the weather in mind. The last thing you need is to be surprised by what appeared to be a sunny day turning into an unexpected storm. The importance of this cannot be understated, as what would appear to be a mild concern on land could become a hazard at sea as your vessel is suddenly buffeted by waves it wasn’t meant to handle.
2. Understand the Jargon
Related to the above, be sure you understand the jargon used in weather advisories. What constitutes a ‘small craft’ for example? What does a Gale Warning mean? Knowing these terms and how they impact your boating experience will pay off dividends in the long run.
3. Make a Supplies Checklist
Certain items are a must depending on the safety regulations of your given state, but having ample supplies on hand can save you lots of trouble in the long run. Furthermore, don’t plan for just enough supplies for your trip, have some extras in case something goes wrong so you don’t find yourself stranded at sea without ample food or water.
4. Life Jackets
The most obvious one: a life jacket. You should have life jackets for every person on board and wear them when wandering about the deck. This way if you should find yourself falling overboard, you’ll know that you can float safely on the surface until you are able to pull yourself back onto your vessel.
5. Know How to Swim
Another obvious boating safety tip: if you’re going out onto the water, be sure you know how to handle yourself if you fall in. While you should always have your life vest on, mistakes DO happen, and if you should find yourself falling into the drink without your vest, knowing how to swim will at least keep you above water.
6. Drive Safely
Just like you wouldn’t drive a car faster than you can handle, you shouldn’t drive a boat any faster than you can safely handle either. You are not on a flat, paved surface, you floating upon water which, by its nature, can make your journey rough and uneven above certain speeds even in calm weather.
7. Have a Float Plan
The boating equivalent of a flight plan, and really a good piece of advice for any sort of traveling: be sure somebody on shore knows where you’re going before leaving. Leaving behind a copy of the map showing charting your course indicating where you plan to be and when can be a major asset if you find yourself stranded. This way, Coast Guard has a way to figure out exactly where you were supposed to be and will know where to work; turning what would otherwise be a disaster into a funny boating story.
8. Stay Away From the Alcohol
The relaxed nature of amateur boating tends to gravitate towards imbibing in alcoholic beverages. It is best to resist the urge to drink such things as boating while impaired falls in the same category as driving while impaired – with the same legal consequences in most jurisdictions. As such, treat drinking in a boat the same way you would as drinking in a car and simply don’t do it.
The dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning – which comes from the exhaust of a gas powered engine – are a real hazard for boaters. Be sure to cut off your engine when idling and if you have a canopy make sure it has plenty of ventilation to keep these gasses from building up. Even if your vessel doesn’t have a canopy or an ‘indoor’ space, you still run the risk of carbon monoxide buildup while the craft is idle. Be aware of how these emissions can build up and you can minimize the risks associated with CO poisoning.
10. Take a Boating Safety Course
While the tips contained here-in are useful for knowing the basics of safe boating, they should NOT be considered a substitute for a proper boater’s safety course. Even if not required in your state, this is still a good idea to protect yourself and your loved ones from accidental injury or death as a result of careless boating practices.