Nothing says summer like a day on the water, and nothing says fun like a boat safety checklist.
What's that? You didn't expect to hear "fun" and "boat safety checklist" in the same sentence?
Imagine this: It's nearing dusk. You and your friends had an amazing day on the water, including a nice lunch, swimming, and simply relaxing to the gentle rock of the boat. You try to start your engine and quickly realize you're out of fuel. There are a few vessels in the distance that you could signal for help, only your distress equipment is at home.
Now doesn't using a boat safety checklist before you hit the open water sound more appealing?
A boat safety checklist will keep you ready for fun
Some precautions are required by law, and some just make sense. Federal and state regulations vary, and while boating on the Great Lakes presents different conditions than boating on a recreational pond, an abundance of preparation and caution never hurt anyone.
You can check a lot of items off the list at the same time you take your boat out of winter storage. Prepping for the summertime is the best way to ensure fun all season.
What to do before you cast off
Be prepared. It's as simple as that. You never know what might come up when you are 30 minutes away from land. Make sure the following safety protocols are in place, and check that your equipment is in good working order.
1. Check the weather
Sure, it's sunny and calm now, but conditions can change rapidly on the water. Rain and thunderstorms could be potentially devastating to your boat, and even life-threatening to you and your passengers. Don't get caught in a surprise storm or heavy winds. Check the weather carefully before any trip, and consider investing in a weather monitoring system for your boat.
2. Inform a friend
Tell someone where you're going and give them an approximate return time. If anything happens to you—or your boat—while you're on the water, timing is critical. If someone knows the general location where you were traveling and the approximate time you were preparing to return, it will be much easier to locate you.
3. Flotation devices
Carry one USCG-approved life jacket per passenger and at least one throwable floatation device. If you are boating alone, you should always wear your life jacket. If you have a medical emergency or accident and fall overboard, it may save your life.
4. Emergency equipment
A fire extinguisher and flares (or another distress signal visible both day and night) should be on board and in working order at all times. Keep a fully supplied first aid kit on board, as well as matches (in a waterproof container), and a waterproof flashlight with fresh batteries.
5. Anchor and engine
Check that your anchor is in good working order. Ensure that you have a full tank of gas, and verify that your bilge pump is working. Keep a basic toolkit on board, too. You can solve countless problems with a wrench, screwdriver, and duct tape.
Now cast off!
On the water
Your boat safety checklist doesn't end when you leave the loading dock. Boating safety is about preparation and circumstances on the water.
1. Drink responsibly
Operating a vehicle while intoxicated is dangerous whether you are on land or the water. It may also get you arrested in some waters. Save your alcoholic beverages for after your time on the water, or designate a driver who won't be drinking.
Speaking of beverages, everyone should stay hydrated with water. The sun's rays can be overwhelming and dehydrate riders.
2. Follow proper boating etiquette
A few rules: Don't create a wake in crowded waters. Lend a hand to your fellow boaters. Be courteous. Let other boats pass if they are moving faster than you—this isn't a race; you're already on the water! Launch your boat efficiently and make room for other boaters. Don't litter. Simple enough, right?
Time on the water is precious. Common sense will take you a long way in boating safety. Relaxing and having a good time will take you even further. There will be both more and less experienced boaters on the water with you. Say hello and take it easy.
There should be one other item on your safety checklist to help you keep your boat in good condition: accident coverage. We can supply you with excellent coverage at competitive rates. Check out our insurance packages here.
What would you add to this boat safety checklist? Add your suggestions in the comments below. We'd love to hear your thoughts.