Pelican Flyer •
July 7, 2021
Ready to buy a boat or rent a charter and head out on the water? Before you go packing your personal cooler, fishing tackle and water toys, it’s important to understand basic boating safety. From the proper gear and equipment to just generally being aware of your surroundings and following navigational rules of the waterways, here are seven boating safety tips that all boaters should know.
Whenever you set out on a boating trip, you should carry a boat safety kit. During an emergency, a boat safety kit could save a life. Just what belongs in a boat safety kit? Here’s what you need:
Make sure to carry enough life jackets for everyone on board. Furthermore, be sure they are the right life jackets for the type of boating you’ll be doing and that each is adequately sized for the designated passengers’ height and weight. Be sure to pick the right type of life vest that is approved for your water-based boating activity, body of water or any other factors that need to be considered.
For example, if you are taking the fishing boat out on the lake, you may want to consider a life vest with extra pockets and straps to keep tackle and other fishing supplies close at hand. However, if you are on a sailboat or a speedboat out in the ocean, an auto or inflatable life vest is a safer option, able to turn an unconscious wearer face up until they can be rescued.
Check the forecast before you venture out on a boating trip and keep an eye out for storms and nasty weather. If a storm rolls in out of nowhere, you have the option of heading back home, seeking shelter at a nearby marina or even anchoring in a lee away from strong winds and choppy waters.
Each boat or vessel has a passenger or weight capacity, which is there for good reason. Overloading a boat can turn into a dangerous situation, making it capsize. So think twice before turning it into a party barge or filling it to the brim with fishing equipment, grills and heavy objects like fishing coolers. Be aware of your boat’s capacity restrictions and follow them closely.
Keep a nose out for any unusual fumes, especially fueling up your boat. Open hatches and other areas where fumes can become trapped and allow it to air out if needed before starting the engine. Fumes can also accumulate when boat engines are idling or running at a low speed, so give it time to disperse before taking off.
While carbon monoxide is odorless, there’s many portable CO2 detectors you can install in cabins below the main deck, where there are sleeping berths and other enclosed living spaces.
Unlike driving, there’s no test or waterway DMV to obtain a boater’s license (unless you want to be a captain). However, all boaters should know the basic rules. While most waterways are open and you don’t have to worry about crashing into other boaters, there’s still common courtesy and etiquette to follow — especially ones that can help you stay safe. Learning how to navigate safely around a channel and knowing who has the right-of-way is a good place to start, among other rules.
What is a float plan? Essentially, a float plan is an itinerary of your boating excursion. It should list where you are headed, the date you are headed there and when you plan to return. Give the float plan to a trusted friend or family member, or even your local marina, so they can send for help in case you do not return in a reasonable amount of time.
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