Nothing compares to spending the day out on your luxury powerboat with family and friends. In the excitement of getting out on the water, it can be easy to skip over safety steps you assume everyone’s familiar with. There are some essential luxury powerboat safety tasks, though, you should never forget to carry out, both before pushing off from the dock and while you’re afloat.
Feeling confident everyone knows and has what it takes to stay safe before leaving the dock (and once you’re onboard) is the best way to enjoy boating to its fullest. In this piece, we want to go beyond “wear a life jacket” and “have a boat safety kit” to some of the finer points preparing everyone for a safe day on the water.
Safety Tip #1: Vessel Checkout
It’s the captain or pilot’s responsibility to examine the boat pre and post-cruise. A “sniff test” for vapors or fumes, ensuring fire extinguishers are charged and located where they should be, and checking the expiration on flares should be done, as should these additional tasks:
- Check the float switch on bilge and bilge pumps.
- Verify you have all necessary ship’s papers like the registration, valid decal, and radio station license.
- Double-check there are sufficient lifejackets and throwable flotation devices.
- Conduct a visual inspection of the engine compartment.
- Check for leaks.
- Properly reconnect shore power.
- Make necessary notations in the ship’s log.
Safety Tip #2: Develop a Float Plan
Always let someone else know where you’re headed and how long you intend to be gone. This can be a friend, family member, or marina staff member. Typical luxury powerboat float plans include:
- Name, address, and phone number of pilot or tour leader.
- Boat type and registration info.
- Travel itinerary.
- Types of signal and communications equipment on board.
Safety Tip #3: Have a Backup Communications Device
While you always want a VHF radio on board your luxury powerboat, carrying a mobile or satellite phone or another type of device as a backup form of communication ensures you’ll always have a way of reaching someone. Make sure the devices are fully charged and carry portable external batteries in case the boat develops an electrical issue and loses power.
Be sure you know how to get your GPS location from your phone, so you’re easy to locate in an emergency situation. On iPhones, you can ask Siri to supply your GPS coordinates. On Androids, open the Google Maps App and click on the blue location dot, which brings up a page with your coordinates listed. There are also marine navigation apps like iNavX Marine Navigation for the iPad and Memory-Map for all devices, including Androids.
Finally, make sure there is at least one other person on board who knows how to operate the radio and the routine for distress signals.
Safety Tip #4: Carry Two Anchors
Just like you carry a spare tire for your land vehicle, an extra anchor for your luxury powerboat can save you if the first one “goes for a dive.”
- Make sure you know the basics for successfully anchoring a luxury boat.
- Investigate the general depths in the areas you might want to anchor.
- Ensure you have a sufficient amount of anchor line onboard.
Safety Tip #5: Have a Fire-at-Sea Plan
Make sure everyone knows the location of fire extinguishers and other fire equipment. Do a headcount before boarding and announce it to the group. Keep in mind that Coast Guard minimum requirements are just that: the absolute minimum. The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) extinguisher recommendations go beyond the Coast Guard’s requirements and offer more protection. All extinguishers should be located where you can get to them easily and quickly. No one should need to travel more than half the length of the powerboat to reach one.
Safety Tip #6: Weather Check
It’s not enough to check the forecast before you go out on the water. First, weather reports differ from source to source. Pay special attention to wind reports. It’s also a good idea to learn a little about weather patterns and cloud formations so you can trust your own eyes, not a possibly outdated report. As every water enthusiast knows, storms can come from nowhere. If you’re caught in bad weather, try landing at the nearest point for safety.
Check the water, too. Many beaches, particularly those near larger cities, have high contaminant levels. Check online for water quality reports, especially after a rainstorm when water quality tends to be worse.
Essential Safety for Exceptional Luxury Powerboat Enjoyment
If there is one bit of advice most luxury powerboat captains and pilots agree on, it’s to always have a backup plan for when the unexpected happens. Unlike when your road vehicle breaks down, you won’t be able to walk for assistance when you’re out on the water and your battery dies, you run out of fuel, or you have some other mechanical issue or emergency. You might also want to consider adding on-water towing and assistance to your watercraft insurance policy. It’s a smart investment that keeps you from being stranded on water or land. There’s no better way to enjoy worry-free boating to its fullest—and safest!