July 29th, 2016
It’s that time of year again; the sun is out and the weather is warm. It’s time to take the boat out on the water for some fun and relaxation. Here are some important safety tips to remember before you hit the lake.
Review the laws of your area.
Make sure you understand the laws of your area and that you are approved to drive a motorboat. Here in New York State, you are required to take a boating safety course before you are allowed to drive a boat. Here is some more information about those laws in case you aren’t already familiar.
Make sure you have the right gear.
Before you even think about taking the boat out anywhere, make sure you have the right gear for the situation. You should have enough life-vests for everyone on-board, and at least one throwable floatation device. The United States Coast Guard will give you a free safety vessel check, which we strongly encourage you to take. It costs nothing, ensures your vessel is up to safety standards, and offers you a knowledgable person to answer any questions you may have.
Check the weather.
Before you set a date for your boating excursion, take a look at the forecast and be sure to avoid inclement weather. Wind and rain can quickly turn your leisurely ride into a dangerous life-threatening situation, especially if you’re ill-prepared.
Learn to swim.
Whenever you do anything around the water, it’s always a good idea to know how to swim. It can be life-saving, and also a good form of exercise. Plenty of local places offer swimming lessons for all ages, including the American Red Cross.
Don’t drink and drive.
The effects of alcohol are proven to be exacerbated by the sun and wind, which there will be plenty of while out on the water. Like any motor vehicle, drinking and operating one is very dangerous. Drinking and driving a boat is also illegal in all 50 states.
Learn proper emergency procedures.
In the event of an emergency, there are certain procedures to follow to best avoid injury or loss of life. In addition to life vests and throwable floatation devices, having the right gear includes signal flares to let other potential rescuers know where you are, and that you need help. In the event of a capsized vessel however, these things might not be available. It is recommended to keep a Marine Radio with you to call for help. Cell phones and wireless phones can also call for help by simply dialing 9-1-1, however, signal may be limited at certain distances, and Marine Radios have a few other advantages over these as well. Marine Radios are waterproof, have a strong signal, and can send your distress call to any other vessels nearby that are tuned in to the same channel. In the event of a cold water emergency, getting help even a little faster can be the difference between life and death.
Understand nighttime navigation laws.
If you’re out after dark, it is crucial that you know how the red, green, and white navigation lights work, and what they mean. These lights signal to other vessels their presence and also what direction they are traveling. They are positioned purposely so the only way you will see a red and green light together is if the vessel is coming directly toward you. Every skipper should know these lights and be sure they are working before getting out onto the water. Also remember that reduced visibility means slower speeds, varying by area. Make sure to note the speed limit during dark hours in your area.
If you have other questions about boating safety or the laws and navigation procedures on the water, visit the U.S. Coast Guard’s official boating website here.