4 things to do before you get underway

Vessel DocumentationCoast Guard Safety Alerts

National Safe Boating Week is here! Compass is sharing important safety tips throughout the week and today’s is on what you can do to prepare for a day out on the water.

A boating safety course can be taken for free with the Coast Guard Auxiliary. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Levi Read.

If you’re headed out on the water, it is important to educate yourself on the proper usage of your equipment and more importantly know how to operate your boat safely. How important? It could make the difference between life and death.

According to a national recreational boating survey, 75 percent of those who died in boating accidents were aboard boats whose operators had not received basic boating safety instruction. Boaters who have not taken a boating safety class are five times more likely to die in a boating accident than those who have had safe boating training. Along with take a safe boating course, check out our top three tips to do before you even begin pulling away from the pier.

1 – Chart a course.

Make a float plan by informing someone you know on shore. Let them know your boating plans. Your plans should include your route, destination and description of boat, number of people aboard and time of return. If your plan should change, inform those who are familiar with your whereabouts.

Be aware of the inland and offshore weather in your area. Conditions may be nice when and where you launch your boat, but conditions can and often do change. The National Weather Service displays marine weather forecasts regularly as well as announces it over the VHF-FM radio.

2 – Communicate.

Proper survival gear is key before getting underway. U.S. Coast Guard illustration.

Proper survival gear is key before getting underway. U.S. Coast Guard illustration.

Become familiar with your local first responders and Coast Guard units. Be sure to keep a record of their phone numbers and radio frequencies to establish communication if the need arises. Your best means of communication is to have a marine radio on board. VHF channel 16 is an emergency frequency, like 911 on your phone, which may be used to contact the Coast Guard. Remember that channel 16 should be used for emergencies only. You may also want to consider getting a GPS. In the event of an emergency, knowing your location at all times is important to expedite the Coast Guard’s response. A registered emergency position indicating radio beacon can transmit your location automatically when turned on or submerged in water.

You can signal nearby boaters or the Coast Guard with these pieces of equipment:

· Lights
· Flares
· Signaling mirrors
· Horns
· Whistles

3 – Wear It!

Ninety percent of all boaters who drowned were not wearing life jackets. Children under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket while on the deck of the boat at all times. The Coast Guard recommends that boaters wear their life jackets at all times.

Before getting your boat underway keep in mind: If you lose your boat, can you still float?

4 – Get a survival kit.

A float plan lets professional rescuers know where to find you should disaster strike. U.S. Coast Guard illustration.

A float plan lets professional rescuers know where to find you should disaster strike. U.S. Coast Guard illustration.

This kit should contain a first aid kit but you should also go one step further and get first aid certified. The more you know how to administer first aid the better you can help others on and off the water. Keep plenty of potable water and sustenance. Long exposure to the elements can lead to dehydration. Dress for water temperature, not air temperature. Hypothermia blankets and towels are helpful to keep you warm and dry.

While federal and state laws require certain safety equipment to be on board at all times, there is other equipment and are steps that you can take. Just because an item isn’t required, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it along if it helps to ease your mind. Educate yourself on your gear and practice safe boating techniques.