Are you getting the boat ready for a day on the water? If you love fishing, you won’t forget your rods and bait. Water sport enthusiasts will have the wakeboards, tubes and towrope ready. And everyone prioritizes snacks, cold drinks and sunscreen. But the most important thing to remember is boat safety. It’s easy to forget that boating — a carefree and liberating activity — is also inherently dangerous. Before you set off from the dock to crest the ocean waves or motor along a tranquil lake, keep these essential boating safety tips in mind.
Don’t Drink and Drive
Sorry to ruin the party but drinking and operating a boat is illegal in all 50 states. Judgment, reaction times and coordination are crucial, and the sun, waves, spray, engine noise and vibrations in marine environments make alcohol even more hazardous on the water than on land. It is the main factor in fatal boating accidents. Passengers are allowed to drink alcohol, but drivers will face hefty fines, license suspension or jail time if caught boating under the influence. You wouldn’t drink and drive a car, so don’t drink and drive a boat.
File a Float Plan
A float plan is a document you leave behind with a friend, family member or local marina. It describes your vessel, including the length, make, engine type and horsepower, and lists the number of passengers, their names and contact information, and an emergency contact. It says where you are going with a detailed route and when you plan to depart and return. If you don’t return when expected, time is of the essence to get accurate details about your trip to rescue personnel, so they have the best chance to locate you.
Wear a Life Jacket
Life jackets save lives, end of story. A boating accident might leave you unconscious, and even strong swimmers can exhaust quickly. But the puffy, orange life preservers of yesteryear, while guaranteed to keep you afloat, were more likely to make you feel cumbersome and uncomfortable — and ready for any excuse to tear them off. Luckily, today’s life jackets are sleek, comfortable and stylish, from suspender styles, belt packs and foam vests to kids’ jackets decorated with their favorite characters. But having a life jacket on board isn’t enough. You must wear it.
Take a VHF Marine Radio
It’s unlikely that 5G service is available miles from shore. While useful for selfies, your cellphone can lose signal and battery life, making it unreliable in an emergency. Boaters can reach the Coast Guard using a VHF radio tuned to channel 16 anytime, day or night. A VHF radio is also best for keeping up to date on storm and small-craft advisories. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly on channels 1 through 5.