As the boating season approaches, it is important to brush up on your boat safety knowledge to ensure a safe and enjoyable summer filled with great memories and boating adventures!
Whether this will be your first summer with a boat or you have previous boating experience, it is important to know the best safety tips to keep yourself, your passengers, and anyone else out on the water safe. Continue reading for our list of tips and suggestions to follow when boating so you, your passengers and others enjoying the water are safe.
One important way to prepare for boating safely is by completing a pre-departure checklist before you get on the water, every time. Some of the most important elements of this checklist should include:
You need to have at least one coast guard approved life jacket per passenger on board. Be sure each passenger knows how to properly put on and use the life jackets.
An extra floating device is always a great addition to a boat’s essential safety items and is required if your boat is over 16 feet in length.
Flares and other distress signals should always be stored on the boat, in a dry location that every passenger is aware of.
A basic boat-appropriate toolbox is an essential item when on the water. You can also be sure to always carry spare parts and extra fuel.
Topping off your fuel before departing is a great way to ensure a safe return to the docks. If you do not have a full tank before heading out, be extra cautious of the distance you travel and leave a considerable amount of extra fuel for your journey back. In this scenario, being extra cautious and staying closer to land is your best bet!
Ensure all the required navigation lights for your specific boat are installed and before every departure, check their working status. Also, make sure to bring a waterproof flashlight on every boating trip.
Boat Safety Kit
Having a boat safety kit can make all the difference when you are in an unusual or unsafe boating situations. When creating your kit, be sure to include:
- Lifejackets for every passenger
- First Aid Kit
- Buoyant heaving line and extra rope
- Manual propelling devices, paddle, or anchor
- Sound signaling devices or flares
- Bail bucket, blige, or hand pump
- Waterproof flashlight
- Fire extinguisher
- Sun-screen, sunglasses, and hats
- Dry clothing
- Waterproof matches
- Dry goods and snacks
- Duct tape
Always check the weather forecast before departure. This should be the first step you take towards boat safety for each trip. Don’t take risks when it comes to weather. Although you should always check the weather on an app, the radio, or the news before you arrive at the water, you need to check the water conditions upon arrival before your departure too. Even if it is a sunny day, the water can be very choppy which can be a sign of an incoming storm. If you are out on the water and you notice any changes in the weather, start heading back to shore. This includes grey skies, clouds, rough or changing winds, temperature drops, or any other weather-related changes. The moment you notice these changes is the moment you should head towards shore as the weather can change faster than you will anticipate.
Other Essential Safety Tips
Follow Proper Docking Procedures
Docking isn’t always easy. As you begin to approach the dock, ensure your boat’s bumpers are out so there is no damage to your boat. Start reducing your speed. If it is a windy day and the wind blows towards the shore, you can bring the boat about 2 feet away from the dock and the wind will do the rest for you. If you find the wind blowing away from the shore, bring your boat in at a 20-degree angle. Once you are in position, secure the bowline.
Alcohol & Drug Safety
Alcohol or drugs should not be mixed with boating. No matter the amount, there should never be a time when the two are mixed, boating is dangerous, and doing so with alcohol or drugs can result in death. 65% of boating deaths involve alcohol and these occur every single year. Operating a boat while under the influence is not only illegal but can be as dangerous or more dangerous than operating a car under the influence. Alcohol and drugs diminish judgment and the ability to process information in a timely manner or at all. These are essential skills for safely operating a boat. Drugs and alcohol can slow your reaction and reflex time, impact your motor skills and reduce vision, focus, and even depth perception.
Learn to Swim
To be safe on a boat as an operator or passenger, you should know how to swim. Check around your local area to find swimming lessons so you can be comfortable in open water before you decide to board any boat.
Take a Boating Safety Course
Individuals with experience and those without previous experience should routinely take boating safety courses to safely operate a boat and keep their passengers safe. An extra course here or there will do nothing other than equip you with even more knowledge and expertise on boating and safety, you can never take too many!
Have Adequate Boat Insurance
One of the best ways to ensure peace of mind while boating is to have adequate boat insurance.
Boat insurance can help protect you in the following ways:
- Liability coverage for injuries – covers people on the boat or watercraft, in the water, or on other boats
- Liability coverage for property damage from operating the boat or watercraft
- Coverage from weather
- Pollution/wreck removal
- Coverage from theft and vandalism
- Coverage from fire
- Medical costs and accident coverage for passengers
- Emergency towing
- Damage due to accidents
- Damage to furniture, sails, and motors
Each boating insurance policy will be unique, so be sure to make sure you speak to your Insurance Broker about what is and is not covered under your boat insurance policy.
For more information on the importance of having boat insurance, read our blog on Why it is Important to Have Boat and Watercraft Insurance.
Following the above boating safety tips and suggestions should help to ensure a safe summer of boating for you and others enjoying time out on the water. Following these tips can also help prevent boating issues or accidents that may raise your boat insurance premium.