Having a boating safety routine doesn't have to take the fun out of boating. Whenever you're preparing to cast off, check that you've prepared yourself, your boat, and your crew for a safe day on the water.
- Wear Your Life Jacket:According to the U.S. Coast Guard, approximately 78% of all fatal boating accident victims drowned in 2014, and 84% of those were not wearing a life jacket. Carry enough life jackets for every person aboard your boat, and require that they be worn by everyone, every time.
- Prepare a Float Plan: A float plan is a document that lists important information about your boat and its passengers, expected location and onboard emergency equipment. Fill out a float plan before every outing and leave it with a trusted neighbor or relative with instructions to contact the Coast Guard or other appropriate authorities if you don't arrive home by an expected time.
- Know the Weather: Whether boating is a seasonal or year-round activity in your area, knowing the weather will help keep you out of rapidly changing, dangerous conditions. Check the marine weather forecast before you set sail. And if you're planning to be aboard for several days, keep a marine radio tuned to up-to-date forecasts.
- Know the Waters: Even familiar waters can carry hidden hazards. Be sure to purchase and carry charts of any water you plan to visit. If possible, ask other boaters or marina operators of any known problem areas that may not be marked.
- Stay Alert: Prolonged exposure to sun, wind, and boat vibrations can lead to a condition called 'boaters fatigue,' which can impact your response time and decision-making skills as though you were drunk. Know your limits, and don't be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it.
- Don't Drink and Boat: Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in every state and is a violation of federal law. There's little wonder why: the U.S. Coast Guard reports that alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. If you're bringing alcohol aboard your boat, designate a qualified operator to abstain until everyone on board is back on dry land. Better yet, leave the alcohol behind.