Safety is key to the enjoyment of any outdoor activity but it is often overlooked or takes a back seat in participants’ minds. That is certainly true for boating. While boating has a very good safety record, there are still unnecessary deaths and injuries every year. These are often due to negligence, but, as often, due to a lack of knowledge.
So, with that in mind, US POWERBOATING has created a list of important safety tips for boaters to consider before venturing out on the water.
- Wear Lifejackets – always. 80% of people who drown had access to a lifejacket but chose not to wear it. They also did not intentionally go in the water but fell accidentally.
- Dress Appropriately. Wear closed toe, soft soled footwear that will protect your feet and prevent you from slipping on a wet deck. In chilly weather dress in layers to stay warm. Wear a hat and cover up to protect from the harsh rays of the sun.
- Stay connected. Use the engine safety lanyard or “kill switch” that shuts the engine down if the driver is separated from the controls. This will help prevent further problems by shutting the engine down if the driver is jostled out of the boat by a wave.
- Sit Smart. As skipper it is your responsibility to make sure passengers are safe and gear such as coolers, fishing poles, and tubes are stowed securely. Prevent guests and crew from dangling their legs over the outside of the boat especially off the bow. Many people fall off of boats this way and become at risk for injury from the propeller.
- Slow is pro or Go as fast as you want to hit something. Use caution when operating a boat in close quarters near in docks and other in water structures or fellow boaters. Be courteous to fellow boaters at anchor, fishermen, sensitive environmental areas and boats on docks. You are responsible for your wake. Always be thinking of a backup plan if something goes wrong.
- Keep your head out of the boat. Stay focused on the activity outside your vessel such as boat traffic and wakes. Avoid being be distracted by the radio, cell phone and your passengers.
- Maintain a proper lookout. Ask your passengers to assist you in identifying potential hazards such as other boats, kayakers, swimmers, divers and even floating debris. On busy weekends it is difficult for one person to keep track of all the activity around their boat.
- Avoid alcohol. Save the drinks until after operating a boat, even a small amount of alcohol can be dramatized by the effects of the sun, wave action and lack of water and food on the water.
- Make Safety Routine. Develop your own vessel inspection checklist to cover weather, boating conditions, safety equipment, and engine systems and hoses. Have the US Coast Guard Auxiliary do a courtesy safety inspection to ensure that your boat is set up properly to keep you and your loved ones safe.
- Wear sunscreen. a good zinc or titanium oxide based sunscreen on all exposed skin. The sun’s rays are twice as damaging out on the water due to its reflective qualities. Consider also a high quality lip balm with SPF 15 or more
- When ‘tubing’, waterskiing or some other activity where a person is towed behind, keep them away from the back of the boat where the exhaust is.. There’s a high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in the area directly underneath or beside the engine exhaust.
- Always scan your immediate area for evidence of open flames before fueling. Most common are people smoking, but other flames, like those from a torch are equally as dangerous.
- When launching or retrieving your boat on a launch ramp, always keep others out from behind the trailer.
And, if you are at all concerned about safely and confidently handling your boat US POWERBOATING’S Drivers Education for Boaters program may be for you! There are 12 official training centers around the country and more coming on board later in 2011. At these centers you will learn all the basics of boating from docking and undocking to safely performing high speed maneuvers.
Visit www.uspowerboating.com or call 800 877 2451 and ask for the national powerboat training manager, for more information. Have a wonderful time on the water!