National Boat Safety Week is upon us and this year it means a bit more to us than in years past. Living in the Midwest we grew up boating on lakes but purchasing our boat this last year took our passion for water to the ocean. Regardless of where you are boating, the safety tips align.
Boating can be fun AND safe for everyone if you follow these boating safety tips.
Save the Drinks for Later
It’s OK to relax and have fun on the water with family and friends but save the drinking for after the driving. According to 2014 stats, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in boating accidents that result in fatalities where the cause is actually known. 21% of boating fatalities in 2014 were alcohol related.
Bigger is Better
Boat softly but carry a big horn…isn’t that how that famous quote goes?!?
Here in SoCal we have a constant influx of water newbies (mostly on SUPs), which isn’t inherently a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great thing, I love seeing people learn about and enjoy the ocean, especially parents teaching their kids. But take note of one of the key words there – Learn.
Take a minute to learn the basics of water safety and etiquette about sharing the water with vehicles much larger than you. We see the opposite ends of the spectrum – those that have been on the water for so long they no longer think the rules apply to them and those who are so new they don’t know what could save their life.
When a larger vehicle is coming towards you (you know, the kind that could accidentally squash you like a bug if they don’t see you? ?)…they have the right of way…move over. And as a Captain, what do you do if they don’t move? Remember that horn I mentioned? Nothing prompts a faster response than a brief pulse of 96 decibels of air horn goodness. Truth be told, I usually give people the benefit of the doubt and attempt to warn them over my loud speaker…multiple times…but then if they’re still not responding I give them a little jolt.
Just like on the road, drive defensively. Always pay attention to what the other guy or gal at the helm is doing. We recently purchased our boat so have only been boating a short time but I can’t tell you the number of times a boat has pulled out of an alley into the main lane without checking for oncoming vessels and cut me off. It’s not hard folks, slow down, use your horn if needed, and like a child crossing the street…check both ways before you step out.
Pay Attention to Surroundings
On the topic of defensive driving, if you’re on the open water don’t assume the other guy sees you even if he’s headed straight for you. I’ve been surprised by the number of guys who apparently just want to play a game of chicken. If someone’s being a jerk, either purposely or unconsciously, don’t let them antagonize you into trying to show who has the bigger dry bag if you know what I mean. This applies to the little guys and the commercial guys, jerkiness doesn’t discriminate. Give them their space and remember that Karma can be a cruel cruel lady and she will demand payment from them at some point. Don’t get involved in that transaction.
Safety with Guests
And last but not least: entertaining friends and family on your vessel can be demanding on a Captain and First Mate. You’re responsible for food, drinks, music, and the general well being of your guests. But more importantly you’re still responsible for they’re safety. Don’t let the festivities deter you from performing your normal safety checks before you go out. It can be too easy to dismiss checking the oil or not running the bilge blower long enough…the last thing you want is an issue when you’re out on the water and a boat full of people only makes that worse. I try to arrive an hour before my guests and take care of everything in advance. That allows me to ensure their safety and gives me more time to enjoy their presence and happy hour cocktails when we return to our dock.