ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- For many of the nation's 80 million recreational boaters, the upcoming Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer boating season. Like a football game "kick-off," boaters will work to a frenzy to get their boats in the water by the May 27 goal line.
But what is different this time of year, reports Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), is that both the boat owner and their boat may need extra preparation.
"Each new season, we're rusty and we need to remind ourselves how we keep it safe by reviewing the nautical rules of the road, or taking care of important safety gear like inflatable life jackets or flares," BoatUS Foundation President Chris Edmonston said.
To help them, the Foundation offers both a free online safety course and "Boater's Toolbox," with an animated rules of the road section and instructional simulator games, information on life jackets, safe and clean fueling, and required safety equipment at www.BoatUS.com/foundation.
Edmonston also recommends getting a free Vessel Safety Check offered by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and US Power Squadrons. You can request one or do an online "virtual" vessel safety check at www.safetyseal.net.
The No. 1 reason for on water boat breakdowns this time of year is incomplete spring commissioning, reports BoatUS Towing Services.
"Everyone is rushing to get back on the water, and after this winter, who can blame them?" BoatUS Towing Services Vice President Adam Wheeler said. "But in their rush to be on the water again, they miss something, like a corroded battery terminal wire, or fuel line that needs replacing."
Fuel issues top the list for causes of boat breakdowns, followed by battery and charging system problems. BoatUS has a free spring commissioning checklist at www.BoatUS.com/seaworthy/spring_checklist.
Adding to boaters' troubles could be the increased boating traffic.
"Memorial Day is traditionally the second-busiest day of the year for requests for on water assistance, after July 4th. If the weather holds it could be very a busy weekend," Wheeler said.
If you do need on water or on the road trailer assistance, the BoatUS Towing App, available for free at www.BoatUS.com/towing/app, can help speed response times as it provides precise location information. For more information about BoatUS Towing Services, go to www.BoatUS.com/towing.
About BoatUS: Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters providing its over half-million members with government representation, services such as 24-hour on water boat towing as well as roadside assistance for boat trailers and tow vehicles, feature-packed boat insurance programs, money-saving benefits that include marina and West Marine shopping discounts, and vital information that improves the boating, fishing and sailing lifestyle. Its member-funded BoatUS Foundation is a national leader promoting safe, clean and responsible boating.