One of the most enjoyable aquatic activities just so happens to be one of the most accident prone activities. Over time, boating has evolved into a much safer recreational sport but much more work needs to be done in terms of safety awareness and education. As long as your boat captain and fellow companions behave safely and follow basic boating procedures, you can easily avoid accidents and injury. Here are some most ignored rules of boating to which every boating enthusiast should pay more attention.
Reference capacity plate for loading
The capacity plate on your boat displays crucial information regarding the maximum weight in pounds of people and carrying load that your boat can handle safely. It also suggests a maximum horsepower that is recommended for your boat. Not many people refer to this information and oftentimes overload their boat, increasing the risk for their boat to capsize because of instability. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, capsizing and plunges overboard due to overloaded or improperly loaded boats are the most reported types of fatal accidents, accounting for more than half of all boating fatalities.
Balancing people on your boat
A main component of keeping your boat afloat is making sure you distribute the weight of all passengers and gear on your boat. To help keep the center of gravity low and thus improve stability, do not allow people to stand up or move around while the boat is underway. This is especially critical in smaller, less stable boats. You should not allow anyone to lean beyond the upper edge of the vessel’s side (gunwale.)
Starting your boat correctly
Before you start your boat, there are some safety checkpoints you should consider. One very important precaution to take is to make sure that water is being discharged from the exhaust system in the back of your boat. This indicates that the cooling system is operational and lubricating. If there is no water being supplied to the cooling system, your impeller could burn out quickly, which would seize your engine.
Avoid running aground
Despite efforts to not run your boat onto shoals, rocks, or islets, groundings do happen and are not uncommon, even among some experienced sailors. You should prepare yourself with knowledge on how to react should this occur. First, do not apply any more power to try to push your way across. Immediately put your vessel in reverse and increase power to back away from the grounding. Pay careful attention to your propellers, as this process may turn up mud or bottom vegetation and cause your propellers to overheat.
Pay attention to speed limits
When you’re out in the open water, you may not be aware of the speed limits, which are restricted in many areas. Look for speed zones marked by signs showing an orange circle around a black numeral. When passing landing floats, some state laws restrict your speed to five miles per hour. There are also other safe speed restrictions when passing a bather, a beach, swimming float, or other boats.
Boating while impaired
The U.S. Coast Guard has issued the claim that, “Alcohol is more hazardous on water than on land.” It’s no wonder that more than half of all fatal boating accidents are a result of boating while intoxicated (BWI). Imagine the combined effects of being on a boat: continual motion, sun, engine noise, and vibration from waves factored in with your altered state of mind. The chances of passengers falling overboard due to capsizing increase significantly when the driver is under the influenced. Furthermore, an intoxicated person overboard faces double danger of being unable to respond to the shock of falling into the water, and or swimming back to safety.
Proper nighttime lighting
Boats operating between sunset and sunrise or during times of limited visibility due to fog or other unpredictable weather conditions must pay careful attention to lighting configurations. It is your responsibility to make sure the lights on your boat are properly lit to adapt to any weather condition and provide for optimal visibility.
Carry required safety equipment at all times
All boats are required to carry certain equipment at all times, but these are just the bare minimum requirements. If you are engaging in any other water sports on your boat, make sure you have all the necessary safety equipment associated with the sport. If you’re carrying children, check your state laws for required personal flotation devices. Also, be sure you understand how to operate safety equipment like fire extinguishers and visual distress signals.