Living on an island, opportunities for sailing and boating are seemingly
everywhere. However, what should be a fun outing can turn dangerous for
even the most experienced boaters. To ensure your safety on a boat this
summer, follow these five tips:
1. Make sure you have a Coast Guard approved life jacket on board for each
person on the boat
A life jacket is the most important item to have on your boat at all times.
More than two thirds of boating fatilities are drowning incidents, and
90% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. All life jackets
on board should be US Coast Guard approved, in serviceable condition,
and the appropriate size for the wearer. Children under 13 years old must
wear a life jacket at all times, unless they are below decks or in an
2. When in a channel, red buoys should be on your left side (port) and
the green buoys should be on your right side (starboard). When coming
back into a harbor, the positions of the buoys will be on the opposite
side (red right returning)
To avoid collisions, make sure to follow proper boating navigation rules.
These include entering and leaving the harbor appropriately and following
the proper steps when met with another vessel. At minimum, you should
always have a proper lookout, operate at a safe speed, and yield to oncoming
vessels when in doubt to avoid collisions.
3. Don’t drink and drive a boat
Almost half of all boat accidents involve alcohol. In addition to being
unsafe, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol is a federal offense,
and is subject to a $1000 fine. In most states, it is illegal to operate
a boat with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 or higher, the same as
driving a car. In some states your boating license or privilege may be
suspended, your driving record affected, or your boat could be seized
or sold at auction. It’s best to leave the alcohol for when safely
on shore with no plans to travel!
4. Always have a fire extinguisher on board
The Coast Guard requires boats to have at least one B-1 Marine fire extinguisher
on board. For boats 26’-40’ you must have at least two B-1
marine fire extinguisher on board. However, if your boat has a US Coast
Guard approved fire extinguisher system for the engine compartment safety,
the number of fire extinguishers necessary on board may be reduced.
5. Practice proper safety when swimming
Swimming off the side of your boat can be fun and refreshing. If you don’t
follow proper safety precautions, it can also be dangerous. Never swim
in a marked channel or a harbor for any reason. Just because there are
no boats around does not mean it is safe to swim. Avoid swimming in areas
with strong currents and never dive off a boat as terrain under the boat
can be uneven. Always keep a floatation device in the water for swimmers,
and find an easy way to get back on the boat.
By following these tips, you can reduce your chances of being injured in
a boating accident.