Enjoying the water on a boat is one of the best ways to experience the summer. You’ll get plenty of sunshine and the opportunity to cool off by heading into the water.
While boating is certainly a summer highlight, it also comes with a good deal of risk. Boating accidents and drownings are more common than you might think.
According to experienced attorney Brian White, “about 78% of all boating deaths are from drowning, so it’s essential for all boat owners to keep one life jacket per passenger on their crafts for every trip.”
This is a shocking statistic considering how easily avoidable drowning is with the use of a life jacket. Other aspects of boating may seem like common sense, but they are easily overlooked and this is where the risk of an injury occurs.
To help you stay safe on the water, we’ll point out a few tips for safe boating below.
Address Boat Maintenance Needs
Before even getting on the water, you need to address the maintenance needs of your boat.
You likely haven’t taken your boat on the water since last spring or summer. While it hasn’t been in operation since then, it will still have service needs due to time passing.
In particular, you should check to see if your boat needs an oil change, give it a thorough washing, and inspect the propellor for any signs of wear or damage.
Most damage to boats is caused by poor maintenance, meaning that it is avoidable. Owning a boat is an ongoing expense and time investment that you must tend to if you want your boat to be seaworthy.
At the same time, if your boat isn’t maintained, it poses a safety risk for anyone on board. You may get stranded out in the water or the boat may sink if it takes on too much water. Lack of maintenance can easily cause both of these problems.
With this in mind, make sure your boat is ready for the water before heading out. Check in advance so you have time to fix any issues before your outing.
Appreciate Life Jackets
Life jackets may seem like a no-brainer, but it won’t matter if you don’t appreciate their importance.
Especially if you’re an experienced boater, you may not see a need to wear a life jacket. You may indeed go on the water several times without ever needing one, but it’s the unexpected disasters that you’ll need them the most.
The problem with boating is that you’re always at the mercy of the water. This is dangerous because water can be highly unpredictable at times, which can easily result in situations where you end up in the water without expecting to.
At this point, it’s too late for you to grab a life jacket. Even if you’re an adept swimmer, being in open water during poor weather is incredibly lethal.
Life jackets are preventative devices that hopefully are never necessary. They’re similar to the airbags found in your car, except that you’ll need to physically wear a life jacket at all times
Taking this into consideration, you must appreciate why life jackets matter. It’s the one rare occasion where something awful happens where you need it, giving you ample reason to wear it every time.
Limit Nighttime Boating
Another important consideration is to limit any nighttime boating.
One of the most dangerous conditions for boating is when you have poor visibility. This makes it easy to hit another boat, swimmers in the water, or land. To effectively navigate, you need to see where you’re going because you have little else to go on.
What almost ensures poor visibility is boating at night. With the sun down, you have much less light and this dramatically reduces your vision. You may have boat lights, but these are highly limited and cannot see far enough to prevent you from hitting significant hazards.
If you’re struggling to see at night, then you can assume that other boaters are also struggling, which creates a dangerous scenario for anyone in the water.
Your safest option is to avoid the dark altogether. This means no nighttime outings and planning your trips so that you return to land before sundown.
While boating is the ultimate way to kick back and relax, you must try to avoid intoxication.
Intoxicating substances like alcohol and drugs directly impair your cognition and ability to function. This is what makes it dangerous to drink and drive.
In the same vein, drinking and boating is also extremely dangerous. This is for several different reasons.
First, you cannot handle your boat as effectively as you would sober. Roughly half of all boating accidents involve alcohol and this is a significant reason why.
Second, you are far less aware of what’s going on around you when you drink. This means you may not notice where your boat is drifting or what’s coming at you.
Third, alcohol reduces your inhibitions and causes you to act recklessly. This leads to behavior like speeding, steering dangerously close to other swimmers and boats, and attempting to splash others.
As you can see, alcohol and other drugs directly make you a worse boat operator. This jeopardizes the safety of you, your passengers, and anyone else near you in the water.
Create a Float Plan
A final suggestion is to create a float plan in case of an emergency.
A float plan is a boating phrase for a rescue plan. More specifically, it’s how you will be rescued should anything go wrong during your outing.
This primarily entails disclosing where you’re going and how long you’ll be there to someone you can trust. If you don’t return on time, this will signal them to alert the authorities for assistance and they’ll know where to send them to.
It’s not fun to think about a disaster, but it could happen and you must be prepared! Inform a friend or family member beforehand and check in with them afterward for some reassurance during your boating fun!
If you want to enjoy the water this summer, then you’ll need to consider your safety first. Boating accidents are common and often avoidable, meaning that a few precautions will keep you safe in most scenarios.
To be a safe boater, you should consider these precautions before heading in the water. This includes addressing boat maintenance needs, appreciating the importance of life jackets, limiting nighttime boating, avoiding intoxication, and creating a float plan.
Taking some extra time to guarantee your safety will go a long way when you’re in the water. Keep this in mind and remember that boating always comes with responsibilities you must embrace every trip!