Boating is a great summertime activity for all ages, but it’s easy to forget the real dangers it poses. It’s something to take seriously, and being prepared is the number-one thing you can do to keep everyone safe and happy. With a bit of forethought and boat safety know-how, you can greatly reduce the risks and enjoy a day on the water.
Get Everything Shipshape
The first type of necessary preparation is physical. You want to make sure your boat has been properly maintained and is free from any damage or potential hazards. In addition to regular boat service, always check things like fluid levels (including fuel!) and boat supplies before heading out. The Coast Guard actually offers free safety inspections for vessels, so there’s no reason not to take advantage of them. You’ll also want to make sure you have a basic boat safety kit on board that includes things like first aid, beacons, binoculars, a fire extinguisher, flares, and a radio or other communication devices, and make sure everything is in working order and not expired.
The second type of preparation is making sure YOU are ready. There are a number of classes worth taking to get educated on basic boat operation, navigation and upkeep. Of course, it’s super important to know the ins and outs of your particular boat, from bow to anchor, but it’s just as important to pass this information on to the passengers and a designated skipper, should you become incapacitated. Know how to swim! Have a float plan including route, destination and expected time of return that you’ve shared with at least one person on land.
Off You Go!
The last piece of boating safely is what you do on the water. Prep can only get you so far; you have to put safety practices into action. This means using life vests and abstaining from alcohol if you’re taking on the role of captain. Combine what you’ve learned about boating with common sense when it comes to encounters with other vessels, shallow waters and the like. Ideally, you won’t be out if bad weather is anticipated, but know what to look for in case there are sudden signs that a storm might show up. Always remain vigilant, and take action immediately if something seems out of place or you notice a mechanical issue.
Boating is a great way to spend the day, but it’s so much more than just the time spent on board. A safe and enjoyable ride requires hours of off-boat time to make sure everyone leaves with nothing but fond memories and maybe a sunburn at worst. As the owner or captain, your responsibility is your passengers’ well-being; don’t neglect it.
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Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.