It's gorgeous outside and you must be eager to get on the water. Sometimes we are too excited about what lies ahead to really prepare for the adventures, excitement and necessary safety steps associated with boating. Here is a short and easy list of preparations to consider prior to boating to ensure a safe venture to sea!
- Get a weather report. You should not only watch a weather report prior to launching, but consistently keep up to date on the weather while at sea. Conditions can change in an instant, especially in the summer months. Bring a portable radio with you on your trip and stay tuned for any updates. Most VHF transceivers have built-in NOAA weather radio channels as well. You may also rely on AM/FM channels, television, or you can access weather advisories via smart phones. If a Small Craft Advisory is announced, meaning forecasted winds of 18 to 33 knots or hazardous sea conditions, head for shore as quickly as possible. Because water conducts electricity, it is also important to head for land at the first sign of lightning.
Know the basics. There are standard pieces of safety equipment that every boat must carry. Always have readily available a US Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Device for each individual on the boat as well as a Type IV throwable flotation device and in many states, an audible warning device (we call it a horn). You should also always have on board a tow line, jumper cables, spare propulsion (such as a paddle, oar, or spare propeller), a fire extinguisher, audible and visual distress signals, and something to use for bailing in the event of an accident. Some additional items that may or may not be on your checklist include a flashlight, first aid kit, boarding ladder, tool kit, extra rope, duct tape, extra drinking water, extra batteries and spare spark plugs. Finally, it is important to have a VHF Marine Band Radio. Although it is not required by law, it is a vital piece of safety equipment.
- Make a travel plan. Create a "float" plan and leave it with a friend or family member who will remain on shore. Include any details about where you are headed, when you are leaving and when you anticipate returning. You may also want to include who will be on board and a description of your boat. In the event that you should require assistance, these details may be helpful in reaching you.
Be familiar with the law. As Captain, you are responsible for the safety of those on board, and in some cases, other boaters on the waters. You must know and obey the laws that govern your waterway, and also be familiar with distress signals and navigational lights. Some simple rules of thumb for boating include:
a. If two boats are destined to meet perpendicularly, the vessel that has the other on their starboard side must keep out of the way, and must either alter their speed or turn to cross behind the other boat.
b. If two boats are bound for a head-on meeting, each must move starboard, so that the other passes on the port side, to avoid collision.
c. Powerboats must yield to sailboats and boats being rowed or paddled.
d. Never jump a wake. Rather, cross at low speeds and keep your eyes open for skiers and towables.
e. Comply with absolutely all signs and respect barriers, including speed limits, no-wake zones, etc.
f. Don't drink and boat, or consume any other kind of mind-altering substances while you are boating. These impair your ability to reason and make sound judgment. Almost half of all boating accidents involve alcohol.
Distribute weight evenly. When loading your boat, belongings should be distributed evenly and kept at as low of a weight as possible. You should also know and keep within your boat's capacity. When changing seats in a small boat, stay low and near the center.
- Consult NBOA's checklist for pre-launching (see last month's "Review" for the check list). Follow some basic guidelines on how to prepare for launch.
- Know your boat and be familiar with your surroundings. Everyone on a boat is an active participant on that vessel from the moment they step on to the second they get off. It is imperative that each individual knows safety precautions and the location of all safety equipment on board in the event of an emergency. Do you know how to tie a knot; the right kind of knot for the application? Did you know that five short taps on the horn mean danger in nautical sound signals? Do your passengers know where the first aid kit is on your boat? Do they know how to operate the vessel in the event of an emergency? Consider the risks of boating and how imperative it is that each person on board has the knowledge of the Captain.
- Improve your boating skills. Take a beginner or experienced boating safety course. The United States Power Squadron, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Sailing Association and the American Red Cross all offer boating safety courses that will keep you up to date. Participating in a boating safety course may make you eligible for insurance discounts. To find out more about getting specialized insurance to give you peace of mind when you're out on the water, contact your NBOA representative.
NBOA Marine Insurance is a purveyor of value: quality, impeccable customer service and competitive insurance rates. We say it time and time again, at NBOA Marine Insurance, our marine insurance agents are also boating enthusiasts. We have extensive knowledge of the water, and have made it a priority to educate the marine savvy on the many things we have gathered throughout the years. To learn more about NBOA, visit www.nboat.com or call an agent directly at 1-800-248-3512.