With summer in full swing, many people are cooling off by boating on area lakes and rivers. Whether you’re a boating novice or a seasoned skipper, here’s everything you need to know to stay safe on the water.
- Be Weather-Wise
Always check local weather conditions before departure. If you notice darkening clouds, volatile and rough changing winds or sudden drops in temperature, play it safe and get off the water.
- Follow a Pre-Departure Checklist
Proper boating safety includes being prepared for any possibility on the water. Following a pre-departure checklist is the best way to make sure no boating safety rules or precautions have been overlooked.
- Use Common Sense
One of the most important parts of boating safety is to use your common sense. This means operating at a safe speed at all times (especially in crowded areas), staying alert, avoiding large vessels and watercraft that can be restricted in their ability to stop or turn. Also, be respectful of buoys and other navigational aids, all of which have been placed there to ensure your safety.
- Designate an Assistant Skipper
Make sure more than one person on board is familiar with all aspects of your boat’s handling, operations, and general boating safety. If the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated, it’s important to have someone else who can safely get back to shore.
- Develop a Float Plan
Inform someone on shore of your boating plans for the day. This should include where you’re going and how long you’re going to be gone.
A float plan can include the following information:
- name, address, and phone number of trip leader
- name and phone number of all passengers
- boat type and registration information
- trip itinerary
- types of communication and signal equipment onboard
- Make Proper Use of Lifejackets
Did you know that the majority of drowning victims are the result of boaters not wearing their lifejackets? Everyone on board should have a properly fitted lifejacket. They should be worn at all times.
- Avoid Alcohol
Practice boating safety at all times by saving the alcohol for later. The probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved and studies have shown that the effects of alcohol are exacerbated by sun and wind. Plus, it’s illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Learn to Swim
If you’re going to be in and around the water, proper boating safety includes knowing how to swim. Local organizations, such as the American Red Cross and others, offer training for all ages and abilities.
- Take a Boating Course
All boaters should be familiar with the boating safety rules of operation. Boater education requirements vary by state; however, some require completion of at least one boating safety course. In Missouri, anyone born after January 1, 1984 must have a Missouri Boating Safety Certification Card in order to operate a motorized vessel or a personal watercraft (PWC). In Illinois, anyone born after January 1, 1998 may operate a vessel powered by a motor greater than 10 horsepower (hp) – only if they have a Boating Safety Certificate accepted by the Department of Natural Resources. Regardless of age and state requirements, anyone operating a vessel should periodically take a boater safety course.
- Consider a Free Vessel Safety Check
Take advantage of a free vessel safety check from the US Coast Guard. They offer complimentary boat examinations to verify the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations. They also offer virtual online safety checks.
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