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Safety on the Seas: 10 Tips for Your Next Boating Adventure

Safety on the Seas: 10 Tips for Your Next Boating Adventure

The majority of boating accidents aren’t caused by tidal waves, perfect storms, or anything else you see on the big screen. According to the United States Coast Guard and Boating Safety Magazine, it’s actually little errors that can do the most damage. Prepare for smooth sailing with these boating safety tips.

  1. Fill up your fuel tank. Sure, running out of fuel can make for a great plotline in a romantic comedy, but things can get dangerous if you find yourself out of fuel and drifting toward choppy waters. To be safe, get to know your boat’s gas mileage, always check your gauge before you head out, and plan for a cushion of 5-10 gallons more than what you think you need.

  2. Don’t fall overboard. Boat decks are slippery and an unexpected wave can cause anyone to lose their balance. Aim to keep three points of contact – two feet and one hand – on parts of the boat at all times. Be sure you’re wearing a life jacket that will turn you onto your back. Better yet, wear an emergency cut-off switch lanyard that will kill the motor if you fall over. That will give you time to get back on board or on your feet.

  3. Prepare for fire. Do you have a fire extinguisher on your boat? Does it work? When was the last time you checked? Any boat with an engine has the potential to catch fire. The Coast Guard requires boats to equip at least one fire extinguisher.

  4. Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Symptoms of exposure to the colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas can seem similar to seasickness. A byproduct of any gas-powered engine, CO can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness, collapse, and even death. Prevent CO poisoning by keeping away from poorly-ventilated areas of the boat, keeping windows and hatches open for ventilation, and staying away from exhaust ports. Ensure that your boat receives fresh air circulation at all times.

  5. Pack the proper safety gear. Make sure you have the right size life jacket for yourself and anyone else on the boat. Once you’ve fastened the life jacket, hold your arms up and have a friend pull the arm openings up. If there’s any extra room above the openings, or the jacket rides over your chin, then it’s too big. Once you have all the right sized jackets, make sure you can access them at a moment’s notice. In addition to life jackets, you should always have flares, lights, a horn, some sort of paddle, and an anchor.

  6. Check the weather. We’ve come a long way from “red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” Just because it’s fair and sunny now, doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way. The weather can change quickly, and you don’t want to find yourself stranded in the middle of a storm. Some signs of an impending weather change include sudden drops in temperature, increases in wind speed, or approaching storm clouds. Check the weather regularly, and when in doubt, don’t go out.

  7. Maintain a lookout. Someone should always be on the lookout for potential threats or hazards whether you’re at sea or at anchor. Another boat could enter your path or there could be an obstacle that you need to avoid. Having a constant lookout will help you avoid trouble before it happens.

  8. Slow down! Just like driving, operating a boat at high speeds is dangerous. You may not see obstacles approaching. Other boaters may not see you until it’s too late. Most waterways have speed restrictions so that boaters can react to danger in time to avoid it. Give everyone a break – slow down, relax, and enjoy the open water.

  9. Don’t drink and drive. The American Boating Association cites alcohol as the number one contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Just as it does with driving, alcohol slows your reflexes and clouds your judgment. Environmental factors of boating, such as sun, wind, vibration, and motion, can intensify the effects of alcohol. The federal BAC legal limit for anyone operating a boat is .08%. Failure to follow the law can result in suspension of your boating license or much worse should an accident occur. It’s just not worth it.

  10. File a float plan. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends filing a float plan before leaving. Your float plan should detail where you’re planning on going and when. Keep it updated for all your trips and email it to a trusted companion for use if you don’t return as planned.

You can create lifelong memories with family and friends through boating. The best way to make this happen is by ensuring each trip out on the water is done safely. NJM makes coverage for your fishing boats, sailboats, speedboats, and more available through our partnership with American Modern. Get a quote for boat and personal watercraft insurance by calling 1-800-743-2817 today.