What can you do to ensure a safe boating experience? While accidents do happen, knowledge and preparation go a long way toward returning to the dock safely. Embrace these boating safety best practices to help you prevent boating accidents. If the worst does happen in spite of your best efforts - you will have at least increased your chances of survival.
The U.S. Coast Guard requires that you carry an approved personal floatation device, or life jacket, for each person aboard your vessel. I recommend wearing a life jacket at all times while boating because you never know when an accident may occur. Statistics show nine of ten drowning victims may have survived a capsizing or fall overboard if they had been wearing a life jacket, so choose a life jacket you will wear.
Eighty five percent of boating fatalities involve operators who did not have formal boating education. A boating course will teach you the basics of seamanship mentioned above. The knowledge you will gain by taking a boating safety course will never be wasted.
4. Boat SoberUsing alcohol is even more dangerous on the water than on land because the marine environment accelerates impairment. In boating deaths attributed to alcohol use, over half capsized or fell overboard. Besides the safety risks, boating while intoxicated, or BUI, is illegal and heavy penalties are enforced by both state and federal agencies.
Aids to navigation such as buoys and day boards help us navigate potentially dangerous waters. Learn to read nautical charts, and keep them on your vessel to become familiar with the area in which you boat. Taking a boating safety course is the next step, where you will learn to navigate using charts, GPS, RADAR, and a compass.
6. Get a Free Vessel Safety Check
The U.S. Coast Guard recommends using VHF marine radio Channel 16 as your primary distress signaling device. A VHF radio equipped with DSC will generate a position to the Coast Guard in the event of an emergency, which can quicken rescue. Cell phones are not reliable enough to stake your life on.
8. Use the Kill Switch Lanyard
If you are the operator of a boat, wear a kill switch lanyard while driving. If you fall overboard or lose your balance, the boat will shut off automatically, possibly saving your life or someone else’s.