The Do’s and Don’ts of Boating Safety
Following these simple doÂ’s and donÂ’ts of boating safety will help you chart a safe course towards the fun and excitement of recreational boating:
- DO wear a life jacket. Life Jackets. They Float. You DonÂ’t.
- DONÂ’T mix alcohol and boating.
- DO observe the nautical rules-of-the-road.
- DONÂ’T stand in a small boat.
- DO check the weather forecast before getting underway.
- DONÂ’T overload your boat.
- DO keep a good lookout.
These suggestions are constant reminders of one very important thing in regards to boating safety, USE COMMON SENSE!
The waterways offer an open invitation to all types of boating. A boater should be aware of the outcome of their actions. Accidents result from a chain of circumstances or behavior which can be easily avoided. Remember to follow the above boating doÂ’s and donÂ’ts and take a boating safety course. It could save your life.
Booze and Boating Just Don’t Mix
Boaters need to remember that booze and boating do not mix. Alcohol impairs your ability to operate a vessel safely in the same way that it impairs your ability to drive a car safely. However, there are other factors that add to the intensity of your impairment when on the water, including the motion of the boat and dehydration.
Balance is one of the first things you lose when you consume alcohol, and when you combine this with the rocking of a boat, the chance of falling overboard increases.
The sun causes you to perspire, which removes the water from your body but leaves the alcohol in. This can cause impairment to happen more quickly. In a study of boating fatalities in four states, 51 percent of the people who died had a blood alcohol content of .04 or more. A blood alcohol of .10 or more was found in 30 percent of the fatalities.
There are several myths about alcohol that boaters should know:
- Beer is NOT less intoxicating than any other alcoholic beverage.
- Only time will sober a person, NOT black coffee or a cold shower.
- It is NOT easy to tell if someone is impaired. Many experienced drinkers can hide their impairment.
- You are NOT the best person to judge if you are fit to drive. Your judgement is one of the first things you lose when you drink.
Remember, safe boating starts before your first trip out on the water. Do not wait until an accident happens to educate yourself as well as your family on the rules of safe boating.
Weather or Not to Boat
As the sun rises high in the sky, the tropical oceans and atmospheres become more and more active by absorbing heat energy. This starts the recipe for thunderstorm and hurricane production. Knowing what signs to look for and where to find weather advisories could make your time spent on the water much more enjoyable.
When spring and summer roll around and outside boating activities increase, the frequency of severe thunderstorms and hurricanes increase as well. Boaters are caught off guard too frequently when storms roll over the horizon. Usually when you observe dark, fast moving clouds headed your way, it is too late to head for a safe location if you are out in the open water. Having knowledge of the larger weather picture and knowing exactly what to do when these sudden storms appear could help you enjoy a safer and more pleasant journey.
Fortunately, those boats equipped with NOAA weather radios will be able to tune into the Special Marine Warnings and Special Weather Statements being issued by the local National Weather Service office. These statements will give you instructions on where the storms are heading and how severe they are expected to be. If your vessel is not equipped with NOAA weather radios, get to know the weather story from local TV stations and the National Weather Service briefings.
The following information is an explanation of the type of warnings you can expect to hear from the National Weather Service:
- SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY: To alert mariners to sustained weather or sea conditions, either present or forecast, that might be hazardous to small boats. The threshold conditions for this advisory are usually 18 knots of wind or hazardous wave conditions.
- GALE WARNING: To indicate winds within the range 34 to 47 knots; or tropical cyclones 34 to 63 knots.
- STORM WARNING: To indicate that winds 48 knots and above, no matter how high the speed.
- HURRICANE WARNING: Issued only in connection with a tropical hurricane to indicate that winds 64 knots and above are expected.
- HURRICANE WATCH: This announcement is not a warning, rather it indicates that the hurricane is near enough that everyone in the area covered by the “Watch” should listen to their radios for subsequent advisories and be ready to take precautionary action in case hurricane warnings are issued.
- SPECIAL MARINE WARNING: Issued whenever a severe local storm or strong wind of brief duration is imminent and is not covered by existing warnings or advisories. Boaters will be able to receive these special warnings by keeping tuned to a NOAA Weather Station or to Coast Guard and commercial radio stations that transmit marine weather information.
Knowing the larger weather picture before venturing out into the open waters could save not only aggravation, but your life as well. Get to know the weather related services provided to you in your area and chart a course toward boating safety.
Fire on Board
Fire aboard a boat can be a terrifying experience. A person may only have a split second to act to save themselves and all passengers. The importance of having fully charged fire extinguishers on hand is vital.
Most boat fires can be put out rapidly if you act immediately. Do not hesitate. If a fire starts, grab the extinguisher, activate it and direct it at the base of the flames. Use short bursts and sweep it from side to side. Do not wait until a fire starts to read the directions on the label. Take the time to make sure that you and those who boat with you regularly know and understand exactly how to use the fire extinguisher.
There are several preventable measures to take in order to avoid most boat fires:
- Clean bilges often and maintain proper gear stowage.
- Make sure short-tie cables are properly connected.
- Place oily rags in covered trash cans or dispose of them on shore.
- Store propane fuel for stoves in a secure area.
If and when a fire does break out on board your boat, never use water on fires started electrically, by gasoline, oil, or grease. Water will spread a gasoline fire and since water is a conductor of electricity, you may receive a damaging shock from an electrical fire. Water should only be used to extinguish burning wood, mattresses, rags, rubbish, and alcohol. When extinguishing the fire, make sure it is completely out. If not, it may smolder for a long while and possibly start again. If possible, soak burning materials over the downwind side of the boat. Also remember to avoid littering the waterways by removing any debris after the emergency is over.
Follow these steps if fire breaks out while you are underway in order to prevent the fire from spreading to other parts of the boat:
- Slow or stop the boat. Wind from the boatÂ’s motion feeds the flames.
- Keep the fire downwind. If the fire is aft, head the bow into the wind. If forward, put the stern into the wind.
- If the motor catches fire, shut off the fuel supply immediately.
Always remember not to panic. Many boats burn to the water line because people jump overboard without assessing the situation first. If you realize that the fire cannot be put out with the fire extinguisher, put on your life jacket and exit the boat upwind of the burning craft. Use a radio, cellular phone, or visual distress signals to gain assistance.
Environmental Guide for Personal Watercraft Operation
When operating your Personal Watercraft (PWC), be aware of the environmental impact your craft may have in certain areas. Most PWCs in good working order can be expected to have little or no adverse effect on the water, land, shoreline, or animals in the area when operated in a responsible manner. However, high speed operations in shallow creeks, coves and tributaries can cause erosion and turbidity that may adversely affect plant life and fish spawning. Additionally, PWC operation in secluded tributaries where traditional boating has not ventured can negatively impact wildlife that may be sensitive to excessive human intrusions.
Please be aware of the following ways in which you can help prevent extensive damage to coral, animals, and the bottoms of our waterways:
- Ride in main channels and limit riding in shallow water. PWC may stir up the bottom, suspending sediments which limit light penetration and deplete oxygen which affect fish and bird feeding.
- In coastal areas, be aware of low tide. The waters may be substantially more shallow at this time revealing sea grass beds and other delicate vegetation. Disturbance of these areas by PWC and other boats can cause erosion as well as long-lasting damage to vegetation.
- Vegetation such as sea grasses are delicate nursery grounds where many of the fish in our waters originate. These weeds, grasses and other plant life may cause damage to your craft. Stay Away!
- Operate well away from the shoreline because typically wildlife inhabit the vegetation along the shoreÂ’s edge.
- Be aware that the noise and movements of boats may disturb bird populations. Steer clear of posted bird nesting areas.
- Many migratory birds are easily stressed and especially vulnerable during their migration period. Birds will typically fly away from disturbing noises and this unnecessary expenditure of energy can harm a feeding or resting bird.
- Bird rookeries are especially vulnerable to noise. Nesting birds may fly from their nests exposing unprotected eggs and hatchlings to the sunÂ’s heat or predators.
- Do not harass wildlife by chasing or interrupting their feeding, nesting, or resting. Harassment is defined as any action that may cause an animal to deviate from its normal behavior.
- Excessive boat wakes may contribute to shoreline erosion, especially in narrow streams and inlets where PWC can operate.
- Erosion is a concern for all shorelines including rivers, lakes, and oceans. The slow destruction of shorelines affects the habitats of plants and animals.
- Remember to avoid high speeds and observe posted no wake zones.
When operating your PWC, use common sense and courtesy to make your ride enjoyable for everyone. Your craft allows you the opportunity to explore areas that traditional boaters are unable to reach. Use this to your advantage and consider the impact that your operation may have on the environment around you before you go out on the water.