Recreational boating is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend time with friends and family, but it’s crucial to keep everyone safe while onboard your custom powerboat. Before the boating season begins, make sure to take some extra time to brush up on common boating safety tips. Regardless of whether you’re a first-time boat owner or a seasoned captain, it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with boating safety procedures on a regular basis.
Here are six boater safety tips to keep in mind before hitting the water this year:
1. Always Wear A Life Jacket
According to data from 2017, about 80 percent of boating related drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. Custom powerboats are a lot of fun, but they’re also incredibly fast. You need to always ensure everyone onboard is wearing a life jacket at all times. Additionally, all life jackets should be in good condition. It’s also a good idea to have a variety of sizes so all of your crew and guests can wear a jacket that fits comfortably. When life jackets don’t fit properly, they may not provide enough support to keep an individual’s head above water. While a life jacket isn’t guaranteed to save your life, statistics show far more deaths occur when individuals do not wear them.
Boats 16 feet and longer should always have one personal floatation device and one throwable floatation device onboard at a minimum. The law also requires that you have enough life jackets for every individual onboard.
2. Keep The Right Safety Gear Onboard
The best way to be sure you’re always prepared for a diaster is to simply keep all the necessary safety equipment onboard. While life jackets and throwable floatation devices are among the most important items, safety doesn’t stop there. You should also be sure you custom powerboat is equipped with a VHF radio (with Digital Selective Calling and GPS connection), a fire extinguisher, paddles, towline, a bailing kit, a first aid kit, and an emergency raft. Depending on how far you’re going, you may want to pack extra fuel as well. Keeping the necessary safety equipment onboard means you’re not only prepared, but that you won’t have to stress every time you take out your custom powerboat.
3. Stay Sober
It’s the captain’s responsibility to avoid boating under the influence. Drugs and alcohol account for about half of boating accidents, and the number is likely higher when it comes to custom powerboats. It’s fun to party on the water, but make sure to stay sharp, vigilant, and sober. It’s your responsibility to protect yourself and your crew.
3. Take A Boater Safety Course
Boater safety training is a proven way to reduce personal injuries and prevent damage to your custom powerboat. From boating operations to proper etiquette, safety courses are especially important for first timers. Not only do safety courses help you to safe on the water, they can also earn you a nice insurance discount.
4. Pay Attention
Distracted driving isn’t just an issue on the road, it’s also becoming a big problem on the water as well. A lack of driver attention is the cause behind 22 to 24 percent of boating accidents and between 9 and 12 percent of boat-related fatalities.
To ensure you’re staying alert, follow the same rules as you would on the highway. Avoid texting and keep your phone stored safely away while operating your custom powerboat. Try to avoid carrying on conversations with passengers behind you, and avoid eating while driving your boat.
5. Keep An Eye On The Weather
Florida weather is notorious for sneaking up on you, so it’s always your responsibility to keep an eye on the forecast. The great thing about a quality custom powerboat with high performance and speed is that you’ll be able to quickly relocate or get in if needed. Nevertheless, be sure to monitor the weather radar and the sky while out on the water.
Storm warnings are issued by the National Hurricane Center and boaters can tune into VHF radios or commercial radios to get up to date information while out on the water. You should always be sure to register for a Maritime Mobile Service Identity Number, which can help identify your custom powerboat in the event of an emergency. You’ll just need to ensure your VHR radio is equipped with Digital Selective Calling and is synced with your GPS.
6. Submit A Float Plan
A float plan can be less formal than a flight plan, but the same concept applies. Make sure to give friends and family a heads-up before taking your custom powerboat out on the water and let them know that you’ll check-in when you return to shore. Make sure to inform everyone of your intended destinations. This is a good safeguard in case something happens on the water. If you don’t return in a reasonable amount of time, someone will know to call the authorities.
No one wants to think about a possible boating accident when they’re planning to buy a custom powerboat, but it’s important to be aware of safety tips and best practices especially if you’re a new boater. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to keep those around you safe while having fun on your custom powerboat.