No matter how much experience you have, it’s always a good idea for everyone to review boating safety rules before departures. Read below to familiarize yourself with these 10 basic boating safety tips:
Always check local weather conditions for boating safety before departure- TV and radio forecasts can be a good source of information. If you notice darkening clouds, volatile and rough changing winds, or sudden drops in temperature, play it safe by getting off the water.
- Follow a Pre-Departure Checklist
Proper boating safety means being prepared for any possibility on the water. From compliance with fire safety regulations to tips for fueling up, following a pre-departure checklist is the best way to make sure no boating safety rules or precautions have been forgotten.
- Use Common Sense
One of the most important parts of boating safety is to use your common sense. This means operating at a safe speed at all times, especially in crowded areas. Be alert at all times, and steer clear of large vessels and watercraft that can be restricted in their ability to stop or turn. Also be respectful of buoys and other navigational aids, all of which have been placed there for one reason only- to ensure your own boating safety.
- Designate an Assistant Skipper
Make sure more than only one person on board is familiar with all aspects of your boat’s handling, operations, and other boating safety tips. If the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated in any way, it’s important to make sure someone else can follow the proper boating safety rules to get everyone else back to shore.
- Develop a Float Plan
Whether you choose to inform a family member or staff at your local marina, always be sure let someone else know your float plan in terms of where you’re going and how long you’re going to be gone. A float plan can include the following information: name, address, and phone number of trip leader: name and number of all passengers; boat type and registration information; trip itinerary; types of communication and signal equipment onboard.
- Make Proper Use of Lifejackets
Did you know that the majority of drowning victims as the result of boating accidents were found not to be wearing a Lifejacket? Make sure that your family and friends aren’t part of this statistic by assigning and fitting each member of your onboard team with a Lifejacket-prior to departure.
- Avoid Alcohol
Practice boating safety at all times by saving the alcohol for later. The probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved, and studies have also shown that the affect of alcohol is exacerbated by external effects such as sun and wind.
- Learn to Swim
If you’re going to be in and around the water, proper boating safety means knowing how to swim. Local organizations such as the American Red Cross and others offer training for all ages and abilities- check to see what classes are offered in your area!
- Take a Boating Course
Beginning boaters and experienced experts alike need be familiar with boating safety rules of operation. Boater education requirements vary by state- some require validated completion of at least one boating safety course. Regardless of your individual state's requirements, it's always important to be educated, aware and prepared for every circumstance that might arise. You can learn boating safety rules by taking a local community course, or there are online tutorials to help educate novice boaters.
- Consider a Free Vessel Safety Check
Take advantage of a free Vessel Safety Check from the US Coast Guard. They offer complimentary boat examinations to verify the presence and condition of certain Safety Equipment required by State and the Federal regulations. Free of charge, they’ll provide a specialist to check out your boat and make helpful boating safety tips and recommendations. They also offer virtual online safety checks as well.
Courtesy of The US Coast Guard
Anchoring is done for two principal reasons: first, to stop for fishing, swimming, lunch, or an overnight stay and secondly, to keep you from running aground in bad weather or as a result of engine failure. Anchoring can be a simple task if you follow these guidelines:
- Make sure you have the proper type of anchor (danforth/plow/mushroom).
- A three to six foot length of galvanized chain should be attached to the anchor. The chain will stand up to the abrasion of sand, rock or mud on the bottom much better than a fiber line.
- A suitable length of nylon anchor line should be attached to the end of the chain (this combination is called the "Rode"). The nylon will stretch under heavy strain cushioning the impact of the waves or wind on the boat and the anchor.
- Select an area that offers maximum shelter from wind, current and boat traffic.
- Determine depth of water and type of bottom (preferably sand or mud).
- Calculate the amount of anchor line you will need. General rule: 5 to 7 times as much anchor line as the depth of water plus the distance from the water to where the anchor will attach to the bow. For example, if the water depth is 8 feet and it is 2 feet from the top of water to your bow cleat, you would multiply 10 feet by 5 to 7 to get the amount of anchor line to put out.
- Secure the anchor line to the bow cleat at the point you want it to stop.
- Bring the bow of the vessel into the wind or current.
- When you get to the spot you want to anchor, place the engine in neutral.
- When the boat comes to a stop, slowly lower the anchor. Do not throw the anchor over, as it will tend to entangle the anchor.
- When all anchor line has been let out, back down on the anchor with engine in idle reverse to help set the anchor.
- When anchor is firmly set, use reference points (landmarks) in relation to the boat to make sure you are not drifting. Check these points frequently.
Do not anchor by the Stern!!
Anchoring a small boat by the stern has caused many to capsize and sink. The transom is usually squared off and has less freeboard than the bow. In a current, the force of the water can pull the stern under. The boat is also vulnerable to swamping by wave action. The weight of a motor, fuel tank, or other gear in the stern increases the risk.
Tips For Reducing Fuel Usage
Follow these easy Discover Boating tips to get the most out of your boat’s fuel efficiency, and save you even more money at the gas docks.
- Slower speeds on the water will reduce use
- The proper use of trim tabs reduce drag, especially while accelerating up to planning speeds.
- Minimize the amount of time that you idle at the dock
- Minimize the use of onboard generators.
- Use dock-side electrical power in lieu of generators.
- Have a float plan so you know exactly where you’re going.
- Make sure the hull is clean.
- Don’t under-power your boat. It’s important you have enough motor to handle the load.
- Check your propeller. If your boat is slow "out of the hole" or lacks top-end speed, you might have the wrong propeller.
- A well-tuned engine uses less fuel.
- Use the grade of gasoline specified by the engine manufacturer.
Pet Safety While on the Water
If you enjoy boating, you probably enjoy taking your best friends out on your boat. What if some of your best friends happen to have four legs and a tail? The following tips can help you keep your pet safe and happy while out on the water.
- Keep plenty of fresh drinking water available
- Provide a shaded area—excessive exposure to the sun can cause problems for animals.
- Protect their feet—dogs absorb heat through the pads on their feet and boat surfaces can get very hot in the sun.
- Give you pet a chance to get acquainted with the boat while it is on the trailer or at the dock
- Walk your dog so he can relieve himself before boarding; if the boat surface allows, you may wish to train him to go in a specific spot
- Keep your first outing short, to let your dog get used to the boat movement.
Dog life jackets
The truth is not all dogs can swim. And not all those that can swim are great swimmers. Additionally, water or weather conditions can cause problems even for a pet that is typically a strong swimmer.
Any dog can get fatigued or disoriented. Older dogs, especially, can tire easily. Pets with low body fat can have trouble when exposed to water for long periods. Health issues, such as hip or joint problems can also make swimming difficult for some pets.
So, while there are no regulations regarding life jackets for pets, a dog life jacket can help keep your pet safe while aboard your boat or around any body of water.
Pet life jackets are designed to keep the animal afloat in a horizontal, swimming position. An additional, important function of a pet life jacket is as a retrieval device, should your pet fall overboard.
How do you choose a life jacket for Fido? Here are a few things to consider:
- Fit—Make sure the life jacket fits securely. It’s best to check the fit in the store, before you buy
- Lifting handles—to make retrieving your pet safer and easier
- Comfort—check to see where straps and buckles fall to make sure they won’t cause your pet any discomfort
- Color—choose a bright color to make it easier to spot your dog in the water
Give your pet a chance to get used to wearing its life jacket before actually getting on a boat. Allow your pet to practice swimming while wearing its life jacket, too.
If you find you pet enjoys boating as much as you do, a dog life jacket can provide your pet with an extra measure of safety. However, your sense of caution and common sense are still your pet’s best friend.