Boat Safety

Safe Boating Points to get you Back to Shore Safely.

Operating a boat can be fun and exciting, but it has risks. Fortunately, most of them can be avoided by following some simple safety tips each and every time you take to the open water. Here are a few suggestions that will help keep you safe while you are out enjoying your boat or personal watercraft:


Watch the Weather

Listen to local and national weather reports before leaving shore and stay alert for signs of bad weather while you are boating. A shift in the wind, lightning and choppy water can all mean that a storm is nearby. Listen to a portable weather radio while you are out on the water. If a Small Craft Advisory is announced, get your boat to shore as quickly as possible. Because water conducts electricity, it is important to get off the water quickly at the very first sign of lightning.

Pack Right, Think Ahead

Bring any extra gear you may need in the event of an emergency. A flashlight, extra batteries, extra clothing and blankets, maps, flares and a first-aid kit are all good items to bring along. And don’t forget the sunscreen and sunglasses when you plan to be out on the water. As the sun’s rays reflect off the water, glare and sunburn are highly possible.

Safety Equipment

Every time you go boating, be sure to carry basic safety equipment. Always have and wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD). And have one for each person on board. A PFD must fit well and be in good condition to meet Coast Guard requirements. You should also make sure you have a throwable personal flotation device in the event that someone falls over board. Other important safety gear would include a tow line, jumper cables, extra paddle or oar, fire extinguisher, something to use for bailing in the event that your vessel takes on water and audible and visual distress signaling devices such as a whistle, air horn, orange smoke device and flare.

Have a Float Plan

Anytime you go out in a boat it is a good idea to leave information regarding your travel plans with a responsible person that is not traveling with you. Details about where you are going, when you are leaving and when you plan to return will be important in the event that your boat is delayed due to weather conditions, mechanical problems or other emergency, and help needs to reach you.

Know the Rules of the Water

Be sure to educate yourself about boating laws and rules. You are responsible for the safety of those on board your boat, and other boaters that share the water. You must know and obey the laws. You should also educate yourself about distress signals and navigational lights and signals. Some simple rules of boating include:

– When intersecting with another boat’s path, the vessel on the right has the right of way.
– Powerboats must yield to sailboats and boats being rowed or paddled.
– Stay well clear of all big vessels.
– Be very careful when navigating in a narrow waterway.
– Any boat being overtaken has the right of way.

Careful with Fuel

Fill portable fuel tanks on the dock. When you are fueling your boat, do not smoke, close all hatches and be sure to turn off engines and any electrical appliances or equipment. After fueling, open all hatches to ventilate the vessel, then run the blower for at least four minutes and then check the bilges for vapors before starting your engine. If you smell fumes, wait until all traces are eliminated to start your engine.

Stay Warm and Dry

Hypothermia can kill. Wearing a PFD can help reduce distress caused by sudden immersion in cold water. If you must enter the water, button up any clothing you can, put on your PFD, try to cover your head and enter the water slowly. If your boat capsizes, it will likely float on or just below the surface of the water. Try to get as much of your body out of the water as possible by climbing onto the boat. Do NOT discard clothing; it will help trap heat. Draw your knees up to lessen the escape of heat. And if there are several people in the water, huddle together so you can conserve heat.

Keep Sharp and Sober

Alcohol, drugs, medications and fatigue can all impair your ability to reason and make sound judgments. Up to half of all boating accidents involve alcohol, and a person under the influence is up to 10 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than one who is has not been drinking. Combining the effects of alcohol and cold water can also speed the onset of hypothermia, causing even good swimmers to drown. DO NOT drink, take any medication that might impair your judgment or do drugs and then operate your boat.

Knowledge is Key

Improve your boating skills by taking 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 teach you what you need to know to hit the waves safely. And taking a boating safety course might make you eligible for insurance discounts.

© 2015 Hartge Insurance Associates