Statistics show that tens of millions of Americans enjoy boating as a recreational activity, and there’s truly something magical and liberating about setting off on the open water, feeling the breeze in your hair, and listening to the gentle sound of the splashing waves against the side of your vessel.
There’s nothing quite like it, and it’s no surprise that so many people of all ages have fallen in love with boating over the years, but it’s important to remember that as well as being fun and enjoyable, boating can also be a dangerous activity.
Boats may be strong and sturdy, but they can’t compare with the power of the sea itself, and when accidents happen, the consequences can be devastating, with thousands of boating accidents occurring every single year across the US, leading to hundreds of annual deaths and thousands of preventable injuries too.
It’s the responsibility of boat owners, operators, and passengers to make sure that they understand the risks they face and behave sensibly and safely every time they take to the water. With this in mind, here are some top safety tips for you to remember on your next boating adventure.
Pack All the Essentials
The most experienced of boating enthusiasts will surely know that boating can be quite an unpredictable activity. You never quite know what might happen next, when the winds might turn, the waves might become a little more dangerous, a technical fault or failure might occur, or some other risk or danger could present itself. Obstacles may arrive when you least expect them, and you can’t predict what will happen, but you can be prepared.
To do so, make sure you’ve packed all of the essential safety items on your boat before you set off. We’re talking about things like flashlights that help you see in the dark, buckets that can help to clear away any water that finds its way onto your vessel, first aid equipment for helping with any injuries, flares, and radios for contacting emergency responders, fire extinguishers just in case a fire breaks out, and so on.
Life Jackets Are Key
Of course, when it comes to boat safety, it’s impossible not to mention one of the most essential items of them all: life jackets. Life jackets save lives. Not only that, but they’re a legal obligation when you’re going out to sea, with every person onboard needing to have their own assigned life jacket, just in case an emergency occurs.
It’s not only important to make sure you’ve got enough life jackets on board, but also to make sure that they’re the right size for the passengers and crew, as well as making sure that everybody knows where they are, how to access them, and how to use them. Take some time before setting off to instruct everyone on how and when to use their life jackets, and you may even decide to have everyone – especially children – wear them at all times, to be on the safe side.
Check the Forecast
When it comes to boating, it’s important to be very respectful of Mother Nature and remember that boating is a responsibility and a privilege, rather than a right. You’re not always going to be the one who decides if a day is right for boating. Often, nature itself will make that decision for you, as bad weather conditions like strong winds and storms can make it far too dangerous to head out.
Make sure you consult weather forecasts in advance of your boating escapades and try to find a day and time that offers the best possible conditions. Ideally, boating should be done on warm, sunny days with low winds. Even then, the weather can change suddenly and is often unpredictable, so you need to make sure you’re ready for anything and able to adapt to changes as they happen.
Never Drink and Boat
We all know the risks of drinking and driving, but for some reason, many people feel that the idea of drinking a can of beer or a glass of wine before operating a boat isn’t such a big deal. Perhaps they feel safer because of the relative lack of traffic around them, or perhaps they’re unsure about the legality of drinking and boating, but the truth of the matter is that operating a boat while under the influence is illegal all across the US and is a big factor in many boating accidents too.
Trying to operate a boat while even slightly drunk can be incredibly difficult and dangerous. You’ll be less likely to react in time to hazards around you, as well as being more likely to make bad decisions, like staying out too long when the winds start to pick up. It can also make it harder for you to keep your balance and can affect your hand-eye coordination too, and anyone who falls into the water after consuming an excess of alcohol will be more likely to drown or suffer hypothermia.
Know What You’re Doing
Some people make the mistake of assuming that operating a boat isn’t too difficult and doesn’t require as much skill, training, or preparation as operating other kinds of vehicles. These are often the people who end up in boating accidents, putting their own lives and the lives of their passengers in danger in the process. Make sure to not overestimate your abilities. Do your research and take boating safety courses beforehand so you’re aware of all the risks.
Equally, ensure that you’re aware of the precise boating laws in your state and remember to carry out a pre-boarding safety check to make sure you’ve got life jackets, sufficient fuel, safety equipment, and no holes, cracks, or other issues with the vessel itself. If you’re not sure about anything, ask for assistance from an experienced professional.
Boating can be a lot of fun and is one of the best ways to explore the world and get in touch with nature, as well as making magical memories with your friends and family too, but the risks and dangers should never be underestimated. Keep these tips in mind when you go boating to have the best and safest possible experiences.