Skip the boat safety checklist, and you could be in for an unexpected swim this summer
One of the best parts of summer (or any warm day of the year) is spending time on your boat. Whether you like fishing, swimming, or just enjoying the gentle rocking of the water, boat time is like a little slice of paradise. Unless, that is, you haven't updated your boat safety checklist in a while.
In 2017, the United States Coast Guard reported 4,291 recreational boating accidents, leading to 2,629 injuries and 658 deaths. Over half of these accidents happened in calm waters, and almost 75% were in fresh water, such as lakes, ponds, or rivers.
It’s impossible to predict or prevent every accident, but keeping your boat safety checklist up to date and following through with going over it can do a lot to keep you safe on the water.
State laws for boating safety can, understandably, be quite different. Boat length, the size of the body of water, and the type of boat can all impact the regulations. No matter what boat you’re on or where you are, some safety items are just plain smart for any adventure on the water. So while some of these checklist items may or may not be required by law, it certainly won’t hurt to have them on board. There are three primary factors in boating safety: the vessel itself, the equipment on the vessel, and the people on board.
Boat Safety Checklist:
Keeping Your Boat Afloat
Check that your steering and throttle controls are in good working order. Any lights should be working, as well as other navigational equipment, such as your GPS and compass.
Check fuel lines and tanks for leaks or loose connections. Be sure your tank has enough fuel for your adventure. Check oil levels while you’re at it.
Ensure that bilges are dry and free of any oil or gas and the bilge plug is secure.
Check that your battery is charged and in good working order.
Any boat with an interior space is in need of ventilation. Ensure vents are working correctly, and install a carbon monoxide detector in any enclosed area.
Boat Safety Checklist:
The Equipment You Need to Keep Your Vessel Seaworthy
1. Life jackets
Every person on board should have access to a properly fitting life jacket. There are several styles to choose from, depending on your boating activity. Some are designed for offshore boating, while others are ideal for kayaking, fishing, day sailing, or just about any other activity. A throwable floatation device is also an essential part of boating safety.
2. Fire extinguisher
Boats under 26 feet with an outboard motor may not be required to carry a fire extinguisher, but safe boating is fun boating. The Coast Guard requires at least one B-1 size extinguisher for vessels with an onboard motor or fuel tank. Boats from 26’ to 40’ will need two extinguishers, and boats from 40’ to 65’ should have three.
3. Signaling and sound device
Be sure to have a working sound device, such as an air horn or whistle, on board at all times. These, along with flares, can help other boaters locate you if you're in need of assistance.
4. Marine VHF radio
Keep your marine radio on channel 16 to stay up to date on boating alerts and warnings. Likewise, this is the channel boaters use to call for assistance. Make sure at least one other person on board knows how to use the radio to call for help.
5. First aid kit
You never know when you’ll need a bandage or ibuprofen.
6. Extra dock lines
You can use extra lines to tow another boat, to get towed by another boat, for docking, or for extra stability in unusual conditions.
Boat Safety Checklist:
Keeping Your Passengers Safe
Everyone likes to have a good time on the water, but it’s important to take it easy and follow your boating safety checklist.
1. Check the weather
Always check the weather before you head out. A sunny day can turn into a dangerous storm quickly.
2. Share your float plan
Make sure someone on land knows where you’re going and an approximate return time. Anything can happen on the water, and if no one knows you’re gone, there may not be anyone to come looking for you. (Also, be sure to notify this contact when you return so they don’t worry that you’ve gone missing.)
3. Limit the alcohol
The U.S. Coast Guard reports that alcohol use is the leading cause of fatal boating accidents; “it was listed as the leading factor in 19% of deaths.”
4. Wear life jackets
The Coast Guard also points out that 76% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, 84.5% were not wearing personal floatation devices.
5. Take a boating safety course
The same Coast Guard report notes that in 81% of boating accidents that led to a fatality, boat operators had not earned an approved boating safety education certificate.
6. Identify an emergency operator
Nominate at least one person to operate the boat in case anything happens to you. If they can get the boat back to shore, that’s ideal, but at a minimum, make sure they know how to use the radio and GPS to call for assistance.
7. Have fun
Some of these checklist items might sound ominous, but that fact is, a day on the water is pure fun. Ensuring the safety of everyone on board makes it that much easier to relax and enjoy the day.
If you want some extra help checking your boat, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S Power Squadrons offer a free Vessel Safety Check for personal watercraft.
Did you know Pekin Insurance can help you take care of your boat? Call your local Pekin Insurance agent today to learn more about boat insurance.