Recreational boating is a pastime that people from all walks of life can enjoy. It provides a freedom that is unparalleled. You can leave all your cares on the dock, as you drift peacefully across the blue waters to whatever destination your heart desires. But as with all fun hobbies, safety comes first. Here are three boating tips to keep you safe while out on the water.
1. Keep your safety equipment up-to-date
When setting sail for a trip, the last thing you want to think about is a potential emergency. But the unexpected may happen, and the best way to minimize the negative effects is by being prepared. According to Coast Guard regulations, all boats should be equipped with certain safety equipment. Here is a list:
- Map of the waters
- A certificate number (state registration)
- State numbering (no less than three inches high, in black/white)
- Life jackets or personal flotation devices
- Visual distress signals (electric distress light, flares, smoke signals, flags)
- Fire extinguishers (fully operational, not expired)
- A ventilation system
- Sound producing devices (bell, whistle, or air horn)
- A backfire flame arrestor
- Navigation lights
- Certified Marine sanitation device (on boats with toilets)
- Communication device
2. Respect the weather
To stay safe on the water, it’s important to respect the weather. Before heading out, check the weather radio for short term forecasts that cover a period up to six hours to help you plan your day. Continue to check the broadcasts while out on the water to make sure no sudden changes have been reported, and watch the skies and water to observe changes in the atmosphere. Strong winds, lightning, rain, and rough water can mean trouble for unsuspecting boaters, and even thunderstorms can cause changes in the behavior of the water. So keep a close ear to the radio and eye on the water and be ready to return to land if necessary.
3. File a float plan
A float plan is a document that details your expected destination and trip duration. It informs its readers of your boat’s guests and safety equipment, and gives a description of what your boat looks like. Your float plan should be given to a friend or family member who will stay still on land, and pass along the vital information it contains, in the unfortunate case that you don’t make it to your destination within an appropriate amount of time. If your designated informant doesn’t hear from you, per direction of your float plan, they can reach out to the Coast Guard for help.
Preparation is always your best defense. Check these three boating safety items off your to-do list before you leave the shore. By prioritizing your safety, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your time aboard the boat because you’ve already done the hard work behind the scenes.