Gearing up for a relaxing day on the water? Help keep your friends and family safe by following these smart and simple boating safety tips.
- Always wear a right-sized, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. The USCG estimates that life jackets could've saved the lives of over 80 percent of boating fatality victims . Wear it, don't stow it. Tucked-away life jackets are useless in an accident.
- Protect against propeller strikes. Make sure all passengers are accounted for before starting the engine, and wear your emergency cut-off switch at all times. When people are in the water, ask one person to propeller-watch. Consider additional propeller-safety devices, such as guards or sensors.
- Carry safety equipment on board. On top of life jackets for all, stock a complete first-aid kit, a tool kit, a horn or whistle, flares, a fire extinguisher, a marine VHF radio, an extra dock line or two and a throwable flotation device, at minimum.
- Make a float plan. A float plan is a document you leave with someone on shore describing your boat, equipment, itinerary and passengers. In an emergency, a float plan can help guide search and rescue teams. The USCG Auxiliary website offers a downloadable float plan .
- Don’t boat under the influence (BUI). According to the USCG, alcohol plays a role in about a third of all boating fatalities, and a boat operator with a BAC of .10 or higher is estimated to be 10 times more likely to die in a boating accident than a sober one . Keep in mind that the sun, wind and boat vibration can accelerate impairment. Be responsible and carry food and non-alcoholic drinks.
- Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. This odorless, colorless gas can cause harm — even death — both inside and outside your boat. Install and maintain CO alarms, and stay far from exhaust fumes. If in an enclosed cabin, go topside and/or circulate fresh air. The symptoms of seasickness and CO poisoning are similar, but if you suspect CO, seek fresh air and medical attention.
- Brush up on boating safety basics. Operator error causes more than two-thirds of boating accidents . Ensure you understand all the navigational rules: Go to boat-ed.com to find your state's online boating course .
- Get a free vessel safety check. The USCG will come to you, at your convenience, to conduct their complementary (and consequence-free) assessment.