Is it spring yet? Hang in there, skipper — just a few more weeks to go! While we’re biding our time until the season opens, how about taking some time to brush up on your boating safety? We put together a few things you can do now, so that you can head out on opening day with the confidence that you, your boat, and your crew are ready for anything.
Let’s start with an easy one: Check all the life jackets on your boat and make sure they’re ready for action. Have each member of the family and each member of your crew try on his or her designated vest to make sure it fits well and is in good working order. If you see any worn-out straps or connectors, replace the vest well in advance of your first trip of the season.
Swimming may save your life one day, and even if you were the Michael Phelps of your class 20 years ago, it’s important to keep those skills up to par. Grab your crew, head to your local indoor pool, and put in a few laps to knock the rust off those swimming muscles.
Every time you head out, it’s important that at least one member of your crew be familiar with every aspect of your boat’s operations, handling, and safety features. If your designated assistant skipper needs a tutorial or refresher, the off-season is a great time to get him or her up to speed.
Every time you head out on the water, it’s important that someone on land knows your float plan so that they can take appropriate measures if something goes wrong. Your plan should let them know where you’re going and when you expect to return, and it should provide the names of all passengers.
While we wait for the season to start, you can build a template for your float plan that includes standard information, like the make and model of your boat, registration information, emergency contact information, and the types of communication and signaling equipment you have on board.
As we all know, a good day on the water is a safe day on the water, and it all starts with making sure to do all our safety checks before we head to the ramp. We need to make sure that personal flotation devices are in place, that distress-signaling devices are readily available in a dry place, that we have all the tools we might need, and that a host of other safety measures are taken care of.
With a simple pre-departure checklist, you can guarantee you won’t miss a thing in ensuring a safe, pleasant day of boating for both you and your guests. Discover Boating offers a comprehensive printable checklist that puts all those important pre-departure checks in one place. Print a few copies and keep them in a convenient place for easy access before your next trip.
Regardless of your state’s requirements, it’s always a good idea to refresh your boating safety knowledge in a formal course with a qualified instructor. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary keeps a national database encompassing all public education courses taught by their various flotillas nationwide; click here to find a class in your area.
Remember, a good captain is a safe captain, and by taking some important safety precautions now, you can lay the groundwork for a whole season of fun, safe boating for you and your guests.