Boating safety is important in all seasons, but spring is a time when many recreational and commercial boaters let their guard down. The excitement about getting back on the water, and the warm air and sunshine can easily make us forget the basics of boating safety.
Here are some important tips to keep you safe this spring:
Be aware of the risk of hypothermia. Just because the sun is shining and the air is warm, it doesn’t mean that the winter chill is gone from the water. If you fall into cold water – anything less than 70 degrees F – you run the risk of hypothermia. In fact, swim failure can happen in as fast as 3 minutes and exposure more than 30 minutes can ultimately lead to heart failure and death. Children are especially at risk so make sure they are wearing lifejackets and take precautions on your spring boating trips and bring along extra clothing, warm blankets and wet gear.
Have a safety plan. Before setting out, make sure that your boat is well equipped with all the necessary safety essentials – life jackets for all passengers, a well-stocked first aid kit, and a life preserver. Time is of the essence if you or one of your passengers goes overboard, so get your plan of action in place beforehand. Talk to your passengers about where to sit safely while the boat is underway and make sure to take extra time to talk to any children on the boat about being safe
Review boating safety protocols online or take a refresher boating safety course. Boating safety information from reputable sources can be found online or at your local library. There are free online boating safety courses and you can also arrange a Vessel Safety Check through your local Coast Guard Auxiliary. Taking a boating safety course may also reduce your boat insurance. Check with your agent to get a list of courses that qualify.
Check your navigation lights. A big part of boating safety is making sure your boat is visible to swimmers, boaters or those using other types of recreational vehicles on the water. Make sure you have extra bulbs in case you need to repair the lights after you’ve left the shore.
Give your boat a thorough stem to stern inspection. Don’t wait until the last minute to find out that something isn’t working. Go through a pre-launch inspection and check your engine, your marine electronics and your safety equipment. Double check that your boat insurance policy is up to date and includes ample coverage for your current needs. If you have questions regarding your policy, get them answered before venturing out. And last, but not least, make sure you “file a float plan” by letting someone know where you are going, who will be with you and when you are expected to return.
It’s exciting to get back out on the water after a long winter, but taking the time to make sure you inspect your boat, talk to kids about boat safety, check your boat insurance policy and bring safety supplies is well worth the extra effort and time.