Safety at Sea

11 Tips for Safe Boat Handling

Always be prepared whether it is using a Jet Ski, a canoe, or a sailboat. Statistics taken from boat incidents indicate a helmsman who has completed a boat safety or has a life jacket on is more likely to stay safe at sea.

Boat Safety with Life Jackets

Common causes of boating incidents include:

  • Insufficient experience
  • Lack of attention
  • Recklessness
  • Speeding

Be aware of what is needed in the event of an emergency and have an operational understanding of the major components of boating equipment.

Here are eleven safe boating tips:

1 – Avoid alcohol

Limit alcohol use on board the boat to increase the ability to boat safely. Alcohol can increase the chance of being involved in an accident by nearly 50%. Plus the effects of alcohol at sea are made worse by the sun and wind.

2 – Boating course

Whether it is a starter or a refresher course, a boater is certain to benefit if able to abide by the proper boat safety rules and regulations. Even thought the boating course might vary from state to state, it still helps to be prepared and educated on the different circumstances that might arise at sea. Boat safety courses are offered on or offline and range from basic to expert tuition.

3 – Common sense

Any boat should be safely operated within the vessels limits and helmsman’s experience. Operate powerboats at a safe and appropriate speed for the waters used. Use lights in low-light conditions. Someone on-board should keep a lookout. Plus, be mindful of potential risks while on the water, such as swamping or capsizing, crossing bars, boating alone, and nighttime excursions.

4 – Engine and fuel

Any boat with an inboard or outboard engine should be inspected before departure to ensure it is working properly. Plus, make certain enough fuel is on board to complete both legs of the journey. A fuel margin of about 50% in excess is often recommended.

5 – Inspect craft and safety equipment

Give the boat a thorough visual inspection before departing from port. Be certain the vessel, motor, and safety equipment is suited to the intended travel plan and conditions. Safety gear should be in great condition. Flares or similar distress equipment should in date (expired flares might not give the desired performance).

6 – Learn to swim

Get swimming classes if planning on being in and around water on a regular basis. Look up classes in the local area and this will help increase the confidence when boating at sea.

7 – Let others know

Notify others and let a responsible other person know the intended cruising plan and when you expect to arrive back at port. Any notified person should also be in a position to give a description of the boat.

Leave behind the follow information:

  • Contact details (mobile phone number, address, and name) of the skipper
  • Passenger information
  • Boat registration and type & class
  • Trip itinerary
  • Communication options on board

8 – Pre-departure checklist

Use a pre-departure checklist to help with increasing safety when out on the open waters. A well-planned departure list should reduce the chance of any safety precautions or rules being forgotten or overlooked.

9 – Safety equipment

In addition to the life jackets, other safety equipment to pack on board the boat includes:

  • Life ring (throwable) or similar device (use on any vessel 16-ft or more)
  • Cell phone or similar means to call for help (VHF radio, whistle, flares, etc.)
  • Charts or maps
  • Fire extinguishers
  • First aid kit
  • Operable boat lights (test before leaving the mooring)

10 – Use of life jackets

Wear a life jacket. A high percentage of drowning victims are those that decide to go against wearing a life jacket. It isn’t possible to know what might take place when out on the open water. A life jacket should be available for each passenger on board and at the right size (child to adult sizes). Wear the life jacket with the straps fully fasten to ensure you are kept afloat should you for any reason go overboard.

11 – Weather-wise

Before departing on sailing trip or a powerboat cruise make sure to check on the local weather forecast. TV, radio, or internet is a great source to get a complete picture of the expected weather. Avoid issues like sudden drops in temperature, changing, rough, or volatile winds, or darkening clouds. Play safe and stay off the water. Weather can change suddenly on the sea and you could be in difficulty within a short time.

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