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The state of Florida had 836 boating accidents in 2020, which is 113 more than in 2019. With a total of 79 individuals having lost their lives to boating accidents in 2020, there’s no question that boating safety is of the utmost importance — even for the most experienced sailor. Whether you’ve just gotten your boating safety card or you’re looking to get your own boat in the near future, here are just a few essential tips you should keep in mind before getting out on the water.
The importance of boating safety checks
Before heading out on the water, performing a thorough safety check should be done each time, and can be achieved with the help of a comprehensive checklist. To outline just a few basics, checking that you have all of the needed boating safety equipment on board and performing a walkthrough are just two major precautions. Equipment includes life jackets and flotation devices, a well-stocked first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, working boat lights, and a working radio, according to Boat Safe. Boat Safe also recommends the consideration of bringing along additional emergency items, such as a cell phone in a waterproof bag.
Performing a walk-through on board will further allow you to check for potential fuel leaks, and will ensure that you have enough fuel for the trip. If you’re planning on taking passengers along for the ride, it’s imperative to ensure that they each know how to put on their life jackets beforehand, and that they fit each individual well. Discussing basic boating safety precautions — such as where the first aid kit and fire extinguisher are located, as well as the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can further make for a safe trip all around.
Drinking and boating
When it comes to drinking on board in the state of Florida, a vessel operator is presumed to be under the influence if their blood or breath-alcohol level is at or above .08, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. However, because alcohol is one of the leading causes of boating accidents, avoiding it altogether while on board is always a great idea. While it isn’t illegal for passengers to drink while on a boat, having a discussion about alcohol before setting out can help — especially if you’re uncomfortable driving with intoxicated passengers as a new sailor. However, it’s important to keep in mind that while you and your passengers may be sober, other sailors on the water may not be, and can lead to unforeseen incidents like a boating accident.
In the event that you find yourself in a boating accident, it’s important to stay on the scene, give all possible aid to those involved, and to give notice to the proper authorities. For those who have been injured, going on to seek legal counsel after a boating accident should be the first step in pursuing justice and compensation. While Florida’s legal system allows for victims to pursue compensation for their injuries, insurance companies and their complex systems can make things a bit difficult. With that said, getting in touch with a personal injury attorney can help ensure that you’re getting the most compensation possible for your recovery — while also holding those responsible for the accident accountable.
Always check the weather beforehand
When planning a boating trip, staying informed of the weather for the day is always a good idea. While this can be done with a simple check of the local weather forecast online, simply knowing the signs of when bad weather is approaching can be a great way to stay informed when out on the water. According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s “A Boater’s Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats,” signs that bad weather is approaching include flat clouds that are getting lower and thicker, a sudden drop in temperature, seas that are becoming heavy, heavy AM radio static (which can indicate a nearby thunderstorm), and a halo around the sun/moon — to name just a few. Should you happen to find yourself caught in severe weather, there are a variety of steps that you can take to stay safe. The Discover Boating article highlights a variety of recommendations from the Coast Guard, which, among others, include ensuring that everyone is wearing life jackets, seating passengers on the bottom of the boat (near the centerline), turning on running lights, and anchoring the boat if necessary.
Boating at night
For those who are comfortable with driving a boat during the day, choosing to head out (or stay out) after dark will require additional considerations. While taking along a seasoned sailor is always a good idea, there are a variety of tips to keep in mind that can make boating at night a safe and enjoyable activity. For example, Geico notes that taking things slowly will better allow you to spot any potential hazards in the water (such as exposed rocks), and recommends posting a lookout in order to help watch for navigational buoys, other boats, and additional hazards in the water. In addition to turning on your navigation lights after sunset, it’s important to ensure that everyone on board is wearing their life jackets. Staying alert, just like during the daytime, is also essential while boating at night — this includes watching out for any other navigation lights around you, avoiding traffic, and protecting your night vision by avoiding white light after dark, according to Geico.
Getting out on the water as a beginner can be exciting, though it’s important to remember that there are a number of safety precautions to take. From performing safety checks to discussing safety with your passengers before getting out on the water, you can ensure that everyone involved is as safe as possible.