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Summer Boating Safety Tips

Quick Refresher Course on Boating Safety

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last year or so, it’s the importance of health and safety.  As the boating season is once again upon us, it seems a good time for a quick refresher on boating safety. Taking care of your passengers (and yourself) is the first duty of a good captain. 

So here’s a few things to keep in mind as you venture out on the water this summer.

  1. Don’t Drink and Boat.   Nothing will get a captain into trouble faster than operating a boat under the influence. That’s why it’s illegal in all 50 states. Alcohol will impact a captain’s coordination, judgment and reaction time even faster than if he or she was driving a car. In addition to all the things you know about operating a machine while impaired, remember that alcohol can influence your inner ear, so if you fall into the water, it’s hard to judge up from down. And an impaired person will feel warmer in the water, which means hypothermia can set in quicker. Just don’t drink and boat. 
  2. Jacket up.   The Coast Guard requires that every passenger wear a USCG-approved life preserver in good condition and appropriately sized. Trust us, you do not want to be stopped by the Coasties and be unable to produce PFD’s for everyone on board. 
  3. Whither the weather.  Always know what the weather is doing, and what it is forecasted to do shortly. Most boating accidents occur because of boaters being overcome by weather conditions they were not expecting.  Almost all smart phones have access to some kind of weather service, so there’s no excuses to be caught in a storm you didn’t know was coming. Even at sea, where squalls can crop up in a hurry. Remember: red flag = small craft advisory. Two red flags = gale warning. Two red flags with black rectangles = hurricane coming, secure the boat and get inland.
  4. Passenger safety.  The sun, the sea, the wind…it’s all great to soak in. But there’s a limit. Keep your passengers hydrated — water on a regular basis. Keep your passengers protected — reapply sunscreens and lotions every hour or so. Make your passengers cover up — long sleeves and hats.  Health and safety is up to you.
  5. Emergency drills.  Whenever you go boating, you expect to have a great time. But you must always plan for the worst. Do you know what to do if, God forbid, someone goes overboard? Remain calm. Shout “man overboard.” Cut the engines and propellers. Toss a flotation device to the person in the water. Keep an eye on him or her. Know how to make an elliptical turn to get back to the person, or the Williamson turn (turn hard to the opposite side where the person went over, turn back after 60 degrees).
  6. Have fun.  Boating is fun, and when practiced with common sense, calm and experience, it is usually safe. Be courteous, watch your wake, be aware of things around you … and enjoy the day!
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