Summers are meant to be spent outdoors. Warm weather, sunshine, long weekends, vacations with the family there’s nothing better than a lazy summer. And for those of us who enjoy boating, there’s no better season. But if you want to maximize your enjoyment, safety has to be a priority.
5 Boating Safety Tips
Boating is largely a fun and safe activity. However, there are some inherent risks that you assume when you go out on the lake. Being aware of these risks and developing proactive safety habits will limit your chances of having a bad day on the lake. Here are a few specific suggestions:
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1. Pack the Right Items
If you own a boat, it’s your responsibility to ensure the right safety items are on board at all times. If you’re renting a boat, it’s up to you to verify that the appropriate items are supplied. Never assume that your boat is prepared no matter how small the lake.
Items to pack/store on your boat include a fire extinguisher, distress signals, floatation devices, non-perishable food items, a first aid kit, GPS unit, flashlight, boat radio, gas can, paddles, and towels.
2. Have the Proper Life Jackets
There’s a common misconception that life jackets are only for people who can’t swim. However, this simply isn’t true. Every person including children and adults needs a properly fitting life jacket.
“Proper sizing is especially important when it comes to children, since they grow so rapidly,” Wholesale Marine advises. “The U.S. Coast Guard categorizes children’s vests by weight, ranging from Infant Life Vests (under 30lbs.) to Teen Life Vests (90-120 lbs.). To test the fit on a small child, lift them by the shoulders of the life jacket; the child’s ears and chin should not slip through.”
3. Protect Your Skin
You have to be conscious about protecting your skin from sun damage while on the water. There’s no shade unless provided by a sail or canopy, and UV rays can be brutal on both sunny and cloudy days. Not only does sunlight come from directly above, but it also reflects off the water, sails, and hulls. If you aren’t careful, this can lead to both skin and eye damage.
Protect yourself by wearing a minimum of 15 SPF sunscreen (anything under this fails to provide meaningful UV protection). Hats, sunglasses, and lightweight, breathable clothing will provide additional protection. If your boat does have a canopy, bimini, or sail, spending time in the shade will further offset the effects of the sun’s harmful UV rays.
4. Set Some Ground Rules
When it’s your boat, you’re in charge. It’s your responsibility to set the ground rules for anyone who will be on your vessel. Doing so will ensure everyone stays safe and has fun throughout the day.
Ground rules may include stipulations on life jackets, where people may sit, hand signals you use when water skiing, and any other personal guidelines and expectations you have for safety.
5. Pay Attention to the Weather
“Checking the forecast and staying alert for changing weather conditions is extremely important if you are planning a day at the lake,” The Weather Channel mentions. “The biggest weather-related dangers for local boaters and swimmers are strong winds, lightning, and heat-related illnesses.”
While most boaters understand the dangers of extreme heat and storms/lighting, few take strong winds as seriously as they should. Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest weather-related risks you face on a lake. Strong winds create large waves, choppy waters, and can significantly affect sailboats and other wind-driven watercraft.
In addition to checking the forecast before departure, it’s smart to keep an eye on the skies and to check-in for updated forecasts regularly. As you know, summer weather can change in a hurry, and it’s wise to have a heads up.
Adding it All up
There will always be some degree of risk when you’re boating on open water. However, by implementing these proactive steps, you can increase your chances of staying safe and having more enjoyable days on the lake.