Boater Safety 101

Summer is in full swing and, for many people, that means spending time with their friends and families on a boat. According to the 2012 Recreational Boating Statistics Report, there were 651 boating-related accidents in 2012. This is a 14.1 percent decrease in accidents from 2011. The U.S. Coast Guard attributes this to better education courses, sober boating and stressing the importance of wearing a life jacket.

Here are three tips for safe boat operation this summer.

  • Plan your Departure – This includes checking local weather conditions before leaving and keeping an eye out for darkening clouds, changing winds and sudden drops in temperature while on the boat. If you notice changing conditions, get off the water. Before departing you should also check for lifejackets for each passenger, enough gas and fluids, a fire extinguisher, and proper distress signal tools such as a sound producing device and lights. Before leaving always tell a family member or friend your float plan, including where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone, and contact information of trip leader.
  • Know the ‘Ways of the Water’ – Just like on the road, a ship’s captain should respect certain rules of the water.  A power driven vessel underway must keep out of the way of sailing and fishing vessels, vessels with restricted maneuverability and those that are broken down.  Simply, the slower vehicle has the right away. If two power driven vessels are on a possible collision course then one vessel is designated as the stand-on vessel, which maintains its course and speed, while the other becomes the give-way vessel which should take early action to avoid collision. In general, the course should be altered to pass port-to-port.
  • Anchor Away! –There may not always be a destination while you’re boating – sometimes it’s nice to stop for a quick swim or just relax and enjoy the sun. At such times, you’ll probably want to anchor.  A marine supply store will help you pick the best anchor and anchor rode for your boat. Never anchor from the stern alone since this could cause the boat to swamp, or capsize. Instead, stop the boat and lower the anchor until it lies on the bottom up-wind from the place you want to stop. Then slowly motor back until all the line is let out. Quickly idle in reverse to set the anchor and enjoy your time on the water! Just make sure you keep an eye on some reference points to see if you’re drifting.

Boating is an activity that everyone should enjoy. Follow these tips for safe boating operation while on the water and always wear a life jacket – it could save your life.