Each summer thousands of folks head out onto the nation’s myriads of lakes, rivers, ponds and oceans to enjoy boating. Motorized boating brings friends and family together on the water for everything from soaking up some sun, fishing, or waterskiing and tubing. For those who have just purchased their first boat and are ready to get out and start enjoying, there are several saftey tips and things to be aware of. Safety should always come first in boating and when these tips are applied, it stacks the deck for years of happy boating.
Personal Floatation Devices, or “PFDs”
All 50 states require any boat to have the same number of PFDs as there are passengers and crew. The United States Coast Guard oversees the categorization of the PFDs and recommends the use of Type I PFDs for pleasure boating. Type I PFDs are referred to as all-purpose or off-shore jackets. There is enough buoyancy in this style of PFD to keep the wearer upright in the water with the head and neck supported over surface level. Always keep the PFDs stored out of the sun when not in use as the UV rays can breakdown the buoyancy fabrics and nylon coverings.
License and Registration
In addition to the PFDs, all 50 states have a set of rules and laws that govern the use of motorized watercraft on the state’s waterways. Some states require special licenses, much like a driver’s license, while other states require you carry your standard driver’s license only. Either way, be sure to take a boating safety course so you know and understand the basics of navigation, buoys and lights, signals and safety. One nice benefit of taking these classes is that you get to meet other like minded boaters which is a great way of building a network of boating friends.
With boats, it is a generally accepted practice to do a basic safety check and walk-around of the boat prior to setting off for the adventure. This should include checking the fuel tanks, the boats light system, pumping out any accumulated water via the bilge pump, and making sure all required gear is on board. If you are unsure of what gear is required, use the USCG’s website at www.uscg.gov. There you will find a comprehnsive list of required boating gear for each state.
The Right of Way
While technically The Right of Way is taught in boating classes, it never hurts to have a laminated copy of basic boating rules and navigation laws. For almost every situation with boating, the boat approaching on the right – or starboard – side has the right of way. When passing any boat, pass on the left. Navigating through buoys and channels requires staying between the red/starboard and left/port buoy markers. As a general rule of thumb, when in doubt, yield to the right.
After decades of boating experience, most boaters come up with a set of little extras that are always on the boat. Some examples include a small first aid kit, compressed air horn, flare gun and hand-held marine radio. Over time you will find you have your particular set of extras that are never far from the wheel on the boat.
Stay safe, enjoy and welcome to the wonderful world of pleasure boating.
USCG: PFD Selection, Use, Wear; http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg5214/pfdselection.asp
Yachting and Boating: Boat Ownership; http://www.yachting-n-boating.com/Boat-Ownership.html
State Boating Laws, USCG: http://www.uscgboating.org/regulations/state_boating_laws.asp