Whether you're a new boat owner or an experienced skipper heading out for the first time this season, taking the proper safety precautions is the first step in enjoying your time on the water. Here are a few prelaunch safety measures that can help make your outings as relaxing as possible.
Take a boat safety course
You wouldn't get behind the wheel of a car without a driver's education, so why would you get behind the wheel of a boat without proper instruction? A boat safety course will teach basic marine operation, navigation, and safety, as well as federal and state boating regulations.
Still need convincing? The reasons for taking a boat safety course are as simple as 1-2-3 (and 4).
- It's the law. More than 40 states now require operators to take an approved boating safety course as part of their boat licensing or safety certification process.
- It's easy. Taking a boating safety course is convenient. Approved courses are offered throughout the country, and many are even available online.
- It's effective. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, only 14% of accidental boating deaths in 2017 occurred on boats where the operator had received nationally approved boating safety instruction. Even if your state doesn't require boater education, the safety benefits are clear.
- It's worth the investment. Insurance discounts may be available for approved boating safety classes.
Get your boat checked
Once you've completed a boating safety course, make sure your boat is as seaworthy as you are by scheduling a U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Safety Check. This courtesy evaluation is a free, fast, and convenient way to check your boat's compliance with state and federal boating equipment regulations. And don’t forget to inspect your boat trailer as well.
Pack the right gear on your boat
You can't always prevent emergencies on the water, but you can make sure you're equipped to deal with them effectively. The U.S. Coast Guard suggests you have the following items on your boat to help you prepare for common occurrences, such as severe weather, accidents or mechanical breakdown:
- Radio equipment,
- Charts of the local area and a compass,
- Anchor and extra line,
- Tool kit for repairs,
- Bailer or bilge pump,
- First-aid kit,
- Food and water,
- Additional clothing, such as warm clothes, a hat, and foul weather gear, and
- Personal items (sunscreen, medicines, sunglasses).