Taking your boat out really is a wonderful feeling that one must experience in his or her lifetime. It is so much more than a journey, but a lifestyle. It is a beautiful pastime and loved by millions of people. But in the fun and excitement of it all, your number one priority should be safety. Boating can be very dangerous if you are not properly prepared.
Buying The Right Boat
Safety begins with the buying process. You first need to decide on what kind of boat you want. Will you mostly be using it for joy rides? Fishing? Will you be on the lake or open waters? These are all important factors to consider when in the market for a boat. Once you have picked the right boat, be sure to only take it out where it is intended. For example, you purchased a beautiful 10 foot bass boat that is for freshwater fishing. You should not be taking this into open ocean waters or rough intercostals. Weather conditions can change at any moment, so just because it looks flat and think your boat can handle it, do not take that chance. If you are out in rough waters on a boat that is too small to handle the conditions, your fun afternoon could turn deadly.
While boating can be fun with the family, it is important to become familiar with the fundamentals of safety. When you have just purchased a boat, the very first place to go for help is your dealer, particularly if you are not familiar with boats generally speaking or when you’re not familiar with the model you’ve bought. Do not be afraid to ask questions and get demonstrations. Your dealer will be more than happy to help.
If you have not an experienced boater, look into boating classes to ensure you know exactly what you are doing. Operating the boat is just one small piece. There are so many things to learn – including how to dock your boat (it is harder than it looks!), how to navigate boat traffic safely, how to determine where the channel is (and therefore where it is safe to drive) and so much more. You would not let a kid take a car out on the open road without teaching them the rules of the road and how to park – the same goes for a boat!
With all of the state of the art equipment available now, look at the owner’s manual and read them thoroughly, they may be more complicated to operate than you think. Play with your gps and fish finders. Get familiar with your equipment so you are not scrambling last minute or worse stuck out on the water without the use of critical equipment.
You have picked the perfect boat, asked all the questions, taken the proper classes and you are ready to take your boat out! Now what? It should be a priority to perform safety checks every time you take your boat out. You need to always use and maintain the right safety equipment. Make sure you have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for every person onboard and if your boat is 16 feet or longer you must also have one approved throwable device. Not only is this for your own safety and the safety of your passengers, but if you are pulled over without the proper number of life jackets, you can be fined!
Check your local weather forecast and always tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Always check your fuel and fill up every time you go out. Sniff for any fumes before you start the engine. If something doesn’t smell right, do not start the engine. This could be a leak.
Always have a fire extinguisher on your boat. Just because you are surrounded by water does not mean your vessel can not catch on fire. You should have operable boat lights and check them before the boat leaves the dock. These should be checked even if you are going out during the day. Carry extra batteries just in case! One of the best things to invest in is a floating waterproof pouch – a safe place where you can store your cell phone, keys, flares and a first aid kit. Another good thing to have on hand is a portable battery backup. This can be used to charge your cell phone, gps or any other handheld device in case of an emergency.
Owning a boat and taking it out can be exciting, relaxing and for some help put dinner on the table (Snapper anyone?). But the most important thing you must realize is the responsibility and safety that it entails. Be smart, be safe and have a blast!
Jennifer Gebhart is a passionate blogger and a boating enthusiast. She is a leading advocate for safe boating. Hand in hand with Chapman School of Seamanship, they are making it happen. The Chapman School is a non for profit power boating school. If you would like to help The Chapman School in their mission to make boating safer and more enjoyable for all please consider learning more about the school and how a charitable boat donation could help.