On Boating Safety, Part 1 of 2

Part of enjoying the boating lifestyle is making sure that your loved ones are safe while you’re all out enjoying life on the water. It goes without saying that boating safety is of the utmost importance to any serious boater, and it really doesn’t take a whole lot to ensure that you’ve got all your bases covered.

This week we are focusing on boating safety, and today we present Part One of our Basic Boating Safety Tips. These are some very practical and simple tips that can make a big difference in giving you peace of mind when you’re out boating with your friends and family.

1. Life Jackets – You want to make sure there is a life jacket for EACH person who will be traveling with you. This is a requirement as per the U.S. Coastguard. Life Jacket usage should NOT be limited only to those who are less than stellar swimmers. According to the 2010 Recreational Boating Statistics found on the USCG website,  “Almost three-fourths of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, eighty-eight (88) percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket.”

The two most common scenarios where you’ll be glad you were wearing it:

– Someone goes overboard

– The boat capsizes and everyone is on the water

Now, in the first case, there is always the possibility of injury when someone falls overboard. The second becomes an issue when you are all waiting to be rescued. It is not guaranteed that you will be rescued immediately. In the meantime, people who are on the water must hang on to whatever they can to remain afloat. Fatigue can set in, and this can be very dangerous.

Of course, wearing a life jacket while you’re enjoying a day on the water may not seem like the most comfortable thing to do, but there are options. Many manufacturers offer lightweight models which can be comfortably worn all day. Check with your favorite boating accessories dealer to see what’s out there. Our Parts Manager here at InterMarine, Will,  can help you find the most appropriate life jackets to fit your style.

2. Beware of Drinking and Boating – Just as drinking & driving do not mix, neither does drinking & boating (known as BUI or BWI). According to the US Coast Guard, drinking alcohol on the water is even more dangerous that it is on land, because the atmospheric conditions make it easier for a person to feel impaired. Once you take into account the continuous motion, vibrations, engine noise, sun, etc., you can see why this is true.

Boating while intoxicated is not only dangerous; it is illegal and punishable by steep fines or even jail. This makes sense, since BWI poses a great risk to your own person and to those around you. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, being associated with 19% of boating-related deaths in 2010.

It is suggested that people wait at least one hour per drink before operating a boat. While it is tempting to enjoy a few drinks while you’re on your boat, your and your loved ones’ safety is what’s at stake.

3. Invest in a VHF-FM Marine Radio – Unlike the life jackets, this handy tool is not a requirement for boaters. However, it is highly recommended that you carry one aboard your vessel at all times. Far more reliable than cellphones, these devices offer some additional benefits to a distressed boater:

– As opposed to directly dialing 911 or the Coast Guard from a phone, a marine radio will broadcast your distress signal to anyone who is listening. Therefore, if there are boaters closer to you than the actual Coast Guard, you may be able to get help sooner.

– The VHF radio’s signal will provide the USCG with a line of baring to your location so that they have an idea of where you are at, making it easier – and faster- for them to find you.

– If your radio is newer, then you have an added feature called Digital Selective Calling. If your device is properly interfaced with your GPS and registered, then with the push of one button the Coast Guard will have your exact location via GPS, as well as your vessel information. Talk about convenience when it matters most!

If you have one of these gadgets, check with the service manager at your local marina to ensure that it is working properly and, if applicable, interlaced with your boat’s GPS system for maximum useability.

Photo of Kill Switch Lanyard

A Kill Switch Lanyard can save lives. Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard.

4. Use a Kill Switch Landyard – A simple gadget that can save lives, a kill switch lanyard will stop the engine in the event that the boat’s operator is thrown overboard or loses his or her balance.This can help not only to keep the passengers safe, but to keep the boat from running over someone who has fallen over.

I found this story, which really puts things in perspective and shows the importance of having a kill switch lanyard (as well as life jackets…)

No one wants to worry about doom and gloom when they’re having fun on the water, but it’s these simple precautions taken well in advance which can keep boating a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.

Tomorrow, we will feature a few more important tips on boating safety and steps you can take to ensure that you’ve got all bases covered.

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