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Boat Safety 101

Practicing boating safety can greatly reduce damage and injury and definitely increase your fun quotient, so…

Be prepared. Check the local weather before your departure; keep an eye out for sudden changes in wind, temperature and clouds; and bring a radio for updates.

Bring a throwable device and at least one life jacket on board for each passenger – a minimum of two, and make certain all passengers know where they are stowed and how to properly use them.

Have a first aid kit and an easily accessible fire extinguisher on board. You should also have a horn that can sound a four-second blast and be heard for over a half mile. If that horn is an air horn, carry a spare can of air. Flairs should be accessible, kept in a dry location, and your passengers should know where these are and how to use them as well.

Carry a tool box including tools for your boat and spare items such as a fuel filter, bulbs, plugs, etc. Also make sure you have at least one anchor set-up, fenders for docking or being towed and spare dock ropes that are free from wear.

Top off fuel tanks and make sure the distance you plan to travel never exceeds the amount of fuel it requires. Check the engine and coolant levels. Check to be sure bilges are reasonably dry and pumps are not running excessively. If there are any fuel smells, be sure to run your blower before starting your engine.

Be smart. Before setting sail, let someone on land know where you are going and how long you plan to be gone. Always use common sense; stay alert; steer clear of large vessels and other watercraft with restricted turning and stopping abilities.

It is also a good idea to have more than one person on board who knows how to operate your boat. Plus, it is always good practice to know how to swim, avoid alcohol, take a boating course and consider a free U.S. Coast Guard vessel safety check.

Then, by all means, just enjoy!