Safe Boating Tips
BoatUSOn waterways across the country, boating season begins this week. To help boaters and anglers brush up on their boating safety, the BoatUS Foundation has these six tips:
- Life jackets: Ensure that you have enough life jackets to fit everyone aboard - including the kids. Next, ensure all are in good condition and easy to reach. Inflatable life jackets need to be opened, inspected, inflated manually and have their CO2 cartridge checked. For more information on the requirements go to www.BoatUS.com/foundation/guide/equipment.html.
- VHF radio: If you don't have one you may be taking an unnecessary risk. A cell phone won't summon the closest potential rescuers -- your fellow boaters or anglers, and today a VHF radio can be purchased for as little as $100. If you have a handheld VHF ensure the battery is charged. "Digital Selective Calling" VHF radios need to be registered and an MMSI number issued to the boat in order to gain all of their superior safety benefits such as a one-button mayday feature. For a VHF radio tutorial, go to www.BoatUS.com/mmsi.
- The anchor: Unlike a car, a boat never stops moving, even in an emergency. Having an anchor and rode in good condition with the bitter end firmly secured to the boat will prevent drifting and give you time to think things through and make it easier for others to find you. To help you select an anchor, go to www.BoatUS.com/foundation/guide/navigation_30.html.
- Inventory and review all safety gear: Double-check to ensure you have all of the mandated safety gear such as signaling devices and fire extinguishers, as well as other safety gear, such as GPS and updated charts. It's also a good idea to brief your guests and crew on where the important items are located -- such as fire extinguishers -- and how to use the VHF radio. Check out trip planning information at www.BoatUS.com/foundation/guide/trip.html.
- Get a Vessel Safety Check: A free vessel safety check from the US Coast Guard Auxiliary or US Power Squadrons is easy to arrange and can help you identify potential safety issues aboard your boat. Go to www.Safetyseal.net to find an examiner near you or to take a "virtual" vessel safety check.
- File a float plan: Before you leave home, tell someone where you are going and what time you are expected to return. This person should be able to go to the authorities if you fail to check back in by a certain time. A sample float plan can be found at www.BoatUS.com/seaworthy/floatplan.pdf.