Boating is fun. There’s no getting away from it. A boat can get you to places that no other vehicle can even pretend to do. This is why trolling is far more successful in a boat than in a pickup truck. It also means that along with boating comes a long list of rules, regulations and pages upon pages of things you should and shouldn’t do when on the water. We get that.
It’s a privilege to have access to open waters, small lagoons, fishing lakes of all size and description and any other body of water that can hold a boat better than your truck. Aside from all the legal crap you have to contend with, there are also as many safety tips designed to keep you from doing something dumb. In this article, we will be focusing on the boat safety tips that will enhance you time on the water. You may want to pay attention to these, just in case.
1 – Stuff You Probably Shouldn’t Forget Back Home
We were going to label this as ‘Safety Gear You Should Have’ but we thought you’d scroll past it. So, since we have your attention, what kind of safety supplies do you need? What will help you to better understand what to pack is to consider worst-case scenarios. We’re talking about situations that extend far and beyond running out of beer. In no particular order, you should have the following items packed with you in your emergency kit:
– Flashlight (and extra batteries or a crank style that requires no batteries)
– Duct Tape (for leak repairs, not to bind hostages)
– Bucket (again, think about the potential of a leak)
– Whistle (in case you have to call for help)
– Garbage Bags (to act as rain ponchos and to collect trash)
– Mirror (to signal for help or to communicate with alien life forms in outer space)
– Rope (to secure your boat to a dock, for rescue purposes and not for hostages)
– First Aid Kit (not just band-aids in case you or someone else has a boo-boo)
– Life Jackets (duh!)
2 – Just Like Your Car Before A Big Trip, Get Your Boat Looked At
It’s called a vessel check. It’s sort of like a bumper-to-bumper inspection minus the fee. You can get your boat examined for free by either the USCG Auxiliary or the US Power Squadrons. You do have to contact them in advance and fill out a form with some pertinent details beforehand but it’ll be well worth the time spent. Plus, if your boat doesn’t pass, there are no consequences but it may put your mind at ease to know that if you choose to turn your boat into a boat anchor, you’d have paperwork justifying that radical decision.
3 – Don’t Fake Boat Safety If You Haven’t Taken A Boat Safety Course
Unless you paid someone named Vito for your vehicle driver’s license, you would have had to study a book of rules and regulations. There was the driver’s test and all kinds of details that you had to get through before you earned the right to legally drive your pickup on or off the road. A boat is a lot like your truck but handles a lot differently as there are different rules to handling a vessel on water as there is for driving a land yacht on the Interstate.
This is why it is a good idea to take and complete a Boat Safety Course. The USCG says about 70% of boating accidents are operator errors. You can find all kinds of these courses online and you may learn something you didn’t already pick up from the guys at the bait shop by taking one.
4 – Um, There’s A Hurricane Warning?
One of the things that tends to get overlooked when unloading the boat from the truck or backing the boat trailer down the boat launch to the water is what’s going on in the sky. Sure, those clouds can be real pretty and a good overcast may just get those fish jumping but the dark clouds and the lights flashing deep within them and the suddenly high winds are usually a sign of something more serious than a light sprinkle.
This is why it is vitally important to keep a handle on the weather forecast. This means the forecast for where you are boating, not your hometown if the lake you are going to drop your fishing line into is a few hundred miles down the road.
5 – You Should Always Tip A Waitress, Not Your Boat
You know how buildings typically have an occupancy limited for fire regulations? The same sort of thing applies to your boat. The only difference here is that you are not trying to limit your load because not doing so may block the fire exits. If you overload your boat with people and gear and people, you risk sending everyone out for a swim.
Remember, not everyone can swim nor did all those who boarded your vessel did so with the intention of going for a dip. When boating, there is a lot of truth to the old saying that less is more. This is very true when you are looking at capacity. Pay attention to the weight limits that the boat manufacturer has recommended and follow them.
6 – Don’t Be The Cause Of Water Rage
Yes, the seas have a version of road rage and it is not pretty. If you zip around in your boat as if you are smuggling drugs or illegal immigrants, sooner or later you are going to become a problem. Sure, there are no passing lanes just like there are no Interstates on the lake or river you are on.
However, that doesn’t mean you get to act like you own the entire region and can do whatever you like. Common sense is important when flying around a surface that isn’t covered in asphalt. There are just as many rules on the water as there are on the road. Be careful to observe them and set a good example for those you are hosting on your boat.
7 – Have A Clear And Precise Flight Plan
Private pilots know the importance of a flight plan, even for short flights. This is a good habit that boaters should adopt. All it means is that if you are off for an afternoon at your favorite fishing hole, tell someone. Give them an idea of how long you plan to be and in case you are overdue, authorities can be contacted. Even if you are the best boater out there, accidents do happen and if no one knows where you are, it may take some time to get assistance to you if you need it.
Sure, you may have a cellphone with you but what if you happen to be in an area where there is no cell service? Yes, there are places where your cellphone won’t work. But if you shared your fishing trip plans with someone else, there should be no problem, right?
8 – Don’t Skip The Pre-Flight Checklist
Thinking about pilots again, there is a pretty good reason why they conduct a check following a checklist before the props start to spin. It’s to ensure that all the proper things are in place and ready to go before taxiing on the runway.
The same idea should be adopted for your boat. Even if it happens to be a one-person inflatable dinghy. When you check the condition of everything and ensure you have brought all the equipment and extras you require, you will have a safe and enjoyable time on your vessel. Forgetting to bring extra fuel or a first aid kit because you skipped the checklist can have negative consequences. But you can avoid those be being thorough in your preparations before leaving the dock.
Safe Boating Lets You Going Boating More Often
It should be a no-brainer. If you boat safely, you’ll get a chance to boat again. When you consider how potential situations can develop on the water, you will grow to appreciate the importance of being water wise. It doesn’t mean you don’t get to have any fun out on the water.
If anything, it means that if you become a safe and smart boater, you’ll actually end up having even more fun fishing, waterskiing, smuggling, whatever you end up using your watercraft for. It also means that your family and friends will join you more often knowing that they will be in a safe environment that you have created by being a common sense boater.
Of course, if your goal is to have the lake to yourself, you may have to put the odd scare into those who happen to show up each time you pack your fishing tackle out of the garage. That one is up to you on how to handle it. Otherwise, if you follow the tips shared here, you’ll do well in your vessel.