Boating Safety

See top boating safety tips and resources, including what equipment, behaviors and attitudes to help you enjoy your trips in water with less risk. The information you are about to read could literally save your life.

In 2014, the US Coast Guard reported 4,064 accidents involving recreational boat use in America alone, resulting in 610 deaths and 2,678 injuries with approximately $39 million dollars of damage to property. 1

This number is very representative of the average number of accidents, deaths, injuries and dollar loss annually, from boating mishaps in the United States for many years now.

Boating, whether for recreational purposes or commercial gain remains very enjoyable and largely safe, if safety precautions are observed.

Yes. Boating safety is critical for anyone operating or riding in a watercraft. A few safety precautions can prevent unfortunate circumstances from dampening your fun.

When you are enjoying yourself on the water, it’s imperative that boating safety practices are always top priority.

The water can change from looking like a tranquil sheet of glass to a nightmare of waves in an instant. Even the strongest swimmer can succumb to the water and drown or be injured, so safety precautions need to be taken at all times.

Top Boating Safety Tips To Observe

Boating Safety should be given a number one priority by anyone who operates or goes into a boat - whether commercial or for pleasure.

Safety precautions and actions should start way before you set inside your boat or before the boat hits the water.

Here are top boating safety tips to keep you safe and help you enjoy your water craft.

1. Know What The Law Says.

  • Yes. Your boating or marine safety action should start with familiarizing yourself with what your local or national regulation requires of boat users, particularly as it applies to the type of boat you are using.
  • In places like the USA, UK and Canada, you may be required to meet certain minimum compliance certification or awareness before going on a motorized boat beyond certain dimensions. Check with your local water way transport department. 2 , 3.

2. Have The Right Boating And Water Safety Equipment On Board.

Never set out on a boat without having at least above the minimum boating safety equipment for your boat type on board. These should include:

  • Life Jacket or Personal Flotation Device (PFD) For Everyone On-board Your Boat. Over 78% of fatalities from boating accidents occur due to drowning from the non-use of personal flotation devices. Always wear a personal flotation device or life jacket when boating, wind surfing, water skiing, rafting, or enjoying any other water sport. Life jackets used to be large, bulky, and inconvenient, but today’s new personal-flotation devices (PFD) are thin and fairly unobtrusive and, most importantly, can save your life.
  • Vessel Safety Equipment. Having a boat safety equipment like a bilge pump on deck may be necessary of you are in a boat that can quickly be filled up by water in turbulent conditions. Actually, must savvy boaters would have this really useful device on board just in case.
  • Emergency Signaling Devices. These would include radios, satellite connectable cell phones if available,  Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), Epirbs, Uscg Visual Distress Signals, whistles, flags and safety lights. If you would be going some distant away from shore, having a visual signaling device is a wise investment.
  • Fire Fighting Equipment. Fire can break out anywhere there is fuel, heat and oxygen. That includes inside most boats. If you have a motorized boat, have a fixed or portable fire extinguisher on board and learning how to operate it.
  • Electronic Communication And Navigation Equipment.  Getting loss in sea is a real possibility, and it does happen. Having navigation charts and GPS, cruising guide, compass, and satellite enabled electronic communication devices would help reduce lost time and get rescued.

If you are looking for where to get top quality and reliable boating and water sports safety equipment, you can shop online from reputable suppliers like West Marine Inc., or Amazon.com. They ship to most countries.

3. Attend A Boat Safety Course.

  • Boat and water safety courses are mandatory in some areas and are recommended for anyone who wants to know how to react in an emergency and how to properly operate a motorized boat. 
  • Consider taking a water safety course. You might never need the skills you learn in a boat safety course or CPR and first-aid course but these are life skills that you can save and be thankful if you never have to use them.
  • It’s better to have something you’ll never need than to need something you just don’t have.

4. Prepare And Undertake A Safety Check Before You Set Out.

Always endeavor to run through a boating safety check before embarking on a boating trip.

  • Always check what the weather forecast is long before you set out. If there is a bad weather forecast, it may be wisest to cancel your trip. This is especially so if a storm is predicted.
  • Always inspect your boat before departing dock or shore to ensure everything is in good working order and check your supplies. This should include first-aid kit and emergency supplies, including food, water, blankets, and flares.
  • Ensure you have enough fuel. Always check how much fuel you have in your boat. Many boating mishaps follow the running out of fuel in sea. You can avoid that with proper planning. Do not take unnecessary risks. Fill up you tank as often as you can. As a rule of thumb, always use the rule of thirds when estimating how much fuel you will need. Plan to use a third of your fuel for your outbound journey, a third back and the balance third must be "budgeted" and left in case of emergency.

5. Never Drive Impaired Or Bring An Impaired Passenger On Your Boat.

According to the United States Coastal Guide 2014 report published in May 2015, "Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 21% of deaths". 1

  • Whether on a commercial or recreational boat, having alcohol consumption to the barest minimum, if you must drink is a legal requirement in most countries
  • Never allow an impaired passenger or driver in your boat. 

Properly maintaining your boat, knowing basic safety skills, checking weather and condition reports before leaving shore and using common sense when out on the water will reduce the chance of problems and allow you to have fun and be safe while out on the water.

Many countries now require a person who wants to operate a boat to be licensed.3 This is becoming more common as boat accidents are on the rise.

Common sense and basic boating safety practices, behaviors and attitudes will go a long way in reducing accidents and ensuring you enjoy your boating experience.

References:

  1. http://www.uscgboating.org/library/accident-statistics/Recreational-Boating-Statistics-2014.pdf
  2. http://tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-obs-menu-1362.htm
  3. https://www.gov.uk/owning-a-boat.

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