Nothing spells summer like a fun day out on the water with your closest friends. As you all chat and relax sudden storm clouds start to form. The boat begins to rock as the storm sets in, knocking one of you overboard.
Can you tell us what went wrong in that scenario? Nobody had a radio on hand listening for storm warnings. In fact, nobody checked the weather at all once the clouds started to get dark.
Watching for bad weather is only one of the many boat safety rules that you should be adhering to. Keep reading for a quick guide on all of them so you keep your relaxing summer day just that.
1. No Alcohol on Board
While you’ll see on television shows and movies where people bring a six pack on the boat with them, this is a very bad idea. In fact, in most cases, it’s illegal.
Being at the wheel of a boat while being under the influence of alcohol is a federal crime in most states around the US. If you’re caught driving a boat buzzed you could be fined like you would be if you were caught behind the wheel of a car.
You’ll have to pay out a fee, you’ll get your boating license stripped from you, you’ll have to complete a boating safety course or a mixture of all three. Keep in mind that this law applies to the drunk operation of all boats with a motor.
It’s More of a Hazard on a Boat Than on Land
Due to the swaying motion of the boat on the water, the sound of the engine, the sun, and even the wind, the effects of alcohol take off a lot quicker than it would if you were on land. You may think that you’re fine after a few beers but the truth is, you’re probably not.
A few drinks are all it will take for you to lose control of not only your judgment but your balance and coordination as well. This is just asking for someone to fall overboard. If you do fall off the boat you’ll experience inner ear blockages which will prevent you from being able to tell which way you should swim to break the surface.
2. Wear a Life Jacket
When on a boat you should either have a life jacket on at all times or have one nearby for you to grab it in the case of emergencies. Not only is this recommended but it’s the law.
It’s Required by the US Coast Guard
The US coast guard requires you to have a life jacket on board for each person you have with you. Every one of these jackets needs to be easily accessible and the appropriate size for the person wearing it.
While it’s not required to wear your life jacket the entire time you’re on the boat, it’s a good idea. You never know when disaster will strike and you may not be able to reach over and grab the jacket in time.
Children and Life Jackets
Adults aren’t the only ones who are required to wear jackets. Each child on the boat should be made to wear one as well. Like with the adult jackets, the ones for the children need to meet their age and weight requirements.
It should also fit nice and snug on their bodies. To check and make sure your child won’t slip out, pick them up by their shoulders. If their chin and ears don’t slip through then it’s fine.
3. Be Prepared
You’ve got to go into any summer activity or vacation prepared otherwise you may be caught by surprise. This applies to boating as much as anything else.
Check the Boating Laws in Your State
It’s unfortunate but you can’t simply grab a boat and go out on the water. Many states require you to get a boating license as well as taking boat safety courses. Don’t worry, you can most likely find free boating courses around where you live.
Even if your state doesn’t require you to take boating courses, consider taking them anyway. Better safe than sorry.
Have a Backup Plan
What are you going to do if you go missing while out on the water? You and your party could be missing for weeks without anyone noticing. This is why you should make a document of the date when you plan to leave when you plan to come back, and who you are going with.
Send this document to a close friend or relative who you trust. This way if you don’t come back they know to start searching for you.
4. Boating Safety Check
Before you’re ready to set out you need to do a quick boating safety check. Make sure that you have gas, look for any harmful fumes, check your safety equipment, and take a look at your propellers.
Don’t Break Down
Nothing would be worse than running out of gas halfway through your trip. Make sure that you have enough.
While you’re checking your gas, also look at your transmission fluid and the engine oil and be sure the battery is fully charged. If even one of these things seems a bit questionable, don’t go out on the water until you have it looked at. The last thing you want is to break down in the middle of a body of water.
Check for Fumes
If your gas tank wasn’t full, refill it. After you’ve refilled it open up the hatches and run the blower. If you get the smallest whiff of fumes do not turn on the engine. Stop everything and have the boat looked at.
Make Sure You Have All the Boat Safety Equipment You’ll Need
Life jackets aren’t the only piece of safety gear that you’ll need in the case of an emergency. You’ll also need boat lights, extra batteries to power the lights, and a pouch that has maps, flares, your cell phone, and a first aid kit.
If you don’t have all of these items, make sure you pick up one or all of them. If you don’t, you won’t have any way to signal for help.
Before you start up the propellers give a quick search around the boat to make sure every one clear from them and onboard the boat. Watch your passengers carefully. Be sure nobody is sitting where they could fall off and make an impact with the propellers.
Don’t let anyone exit or get on the boat until the engine has come to a complete stop. If you’re worried about propeller safety, you can pick up guards for them as well.
Worn out propellers can be even more dangerous than working ones. Go read more now to find out how to pick some out if you feel like your boat needs new ones.
5. Keep an Eye out for Bad Weather
Going back to our earlier example, you need to always pay attention to the weather before and after you set out on the water. Keep in mind that while the weather may be nice when you start out, mother nature is unpredictable. You never know when a storm may roll in.
Have a radio handy and keep it on as background noise. If dark clouds start to rear their ugly head or the radio announcer starts whispering rumors of bad weather, you’ll want to start heading back to shore as soon as possible.
6. What to Do If Someone Falls Overboard
Man overboard! This is something that you never want to have the misfortune to shout but it is a scenario that you need to prepare for.
Turn Off the Propellers If You Can
When someone falls off the boat the first thing that you need to do is turn off the propellers. You don’t want the person who fell to get caught in them.
In a situation where everyone falls off the boat and nobody is onboard to turn off the propellers, your priority is going to be to lead everyone away from them.
The most important thing in this situation (besides turning the propellers off) is to not panic. If you all fell overboard and you’re wearing your life jacket, allow yourself to drift along and look for your companions.
If you weren’t able to grab your life jacket before the accident occurred, find something in the water that you can use as a floatation device. Once you’ve found your companions lead them to safety in a calm manner.
Have Fun in the Sun with These Boat Safety Tips
One of the best things to do during the summer is to go out on the water on a boat. A fun outing can quickly turn into tragedy if you don’t practice the proper safety measures though. Use some of the methods on this boat safety guide to get yourself prepared.
Want to go out on a boat but you’re not sure where to go? Visit the travel and entertainment section of our blog for a few awesome ideas.