As a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard, I feel obligated to at least mention, at least one time, boat safety. So, let’s get it out of the way. Last year, the U.S.C.G. reported over 4,000 accidents which resulted in over 600 deaths from recreational boating. Recreational boating is supposed to be fun and no one likes to think about the terrible things that could happen while trying to have a good time. And of course, accidents happen and not all are preventable but why not do your best to be a responsible boater and lower the chances that an accident could happen? Errors account for 70% of boating accidents so education is one way to keep you and your loved ones safe on the water.
Here are some ideas on how to keep you and your loved ones safe:
- Have a Courtesy Vessel Safety Check at Your Boat! The U.S. Coast Guard offers free safety checks for all vessels with no penalty for failure. The idea is just to raise awareness and keep everyone educated and safe.
- Take a boat safety course! This can be done free at many places and even online.
- Lay off the alcohol. Sure, boating and having some drinks goes hand in hand but just like having a designated driver when you go out to the bar, use a designated driver when you are out on the water as well. Alcohol accounts for 1/3 of all boating accidents and results in serious fines, loss of privileges & jail time in some cases!
- Life jackets! It is the law that there must be a life jacket available for every person on your boat. Accidents can happen to even the most responsible boaters so make sure there are jackets aboard for everyone, not just children, just in case.
- Have a Float Plan. The Coast Guard recommends all boaters to have a Float Plan, from kayakers to power boaters, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared! And in the event something happens, search and rescue will have a better chance of being able to help if a float plan has been made.
- Know your state boating laws! Before you take your boat out, take the time to review your state laws. At the very least, you can avoid a ticket this way and potentially an accident.
- Know your Navigation Rules. Just like knowing the laws for driving a vehicle, you need to know your navigation rules before taking the boat out. Go here to find more info: Navigation Rules
- Make sure your flares are up to date & not water logged. Simple.
- Consider purchasing and registering an EPIRB – Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon that enables signaling of the Coast Guard via satellite should a problem arise.
- Be sure to have a GPS, fire extinguisher & first aid kit on board at all times.
- Cellphone signals can be weak on the water so consider maintaining a VHF radio.
Lastly, do not use the term “MAYDAY” when conducting a radio check. In case you were not aware, this is an actual term reserved for emergency situations. It would be like dialing 911 to see if your phone worked. Don’t be that guy! Otherwise, have fun on the water and be safe!