5 Tips for Boat Safety

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 enclosed cabin.

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.