For Paddlers, It’s High Season for Safety
ANNAPOLIS, Va., October 6, 2014 – It may be sunny outside with blue skies above, but waters are deceptively cold and unforgiving in the fall. For paddlers with just a few inches of freeboard to spare, getting wet this time of year can have serious consequences, so the BoatUS Foundation forBoating Safety and Clean Water has these seven tips for fall paddlecraft safety.
Know how to re-board: All paddlecraft are different, so before you hit a lonely, remote stretch of river or bay, learn (in a safe place) how to get back in the boat quickly and efficiently as hyperthermia is a threat that increases by the minute. Some paddlers add extra floatation inside the boat as it can help reboarding. (Tip: this can be accomplished simply by inflating a beach ball or purchasing aftermarket float bags). If you do ever fall out and can’t get back in, stay with the kayak or canoe – it’s a bigger target for rescuers to see.
Don’t keep it a secret: Tell people where you’re going by filing a float plan. It could be as simple as telling your spouse, in writing, where you are going and what time you plan to return. Writing it down makes it become habit. Be as specific as you can – this isn’t the time to forget to mention you’re heading to your hidden fishing hole two miles off the beaten channel.
Understand the basic rules of navigation: You may not be out there with icebreakers just yet, but there may still be some recreational boating traffic and potential ship traffic. The simple challenge is the smallest boats are hardest to see. One simple tip to help visibility is to spray the tips of your paddles a bright color. Paddlers also can help themselves by understanding some basic rules of navigation.
Don’t leave without a bailer: With low freeboard -- or the distance from the water to the gunwale -- paddlecraft are prone to getting water aboard. Once it starts, it’s only a matter of time before your canoe or kayak becomes ever lower to oncoming waves. Keep water out and buoyancy up by having a bailer ready (Tip: tie one to each seat).
Thermal up or down: Neoprene gloves, a drysuit or wetsuit tops and hats are the ultimate protection in retaining body heat this time of year. However, have outdoor gear that offers versatility by being able to cool down or warm up when appropriate. Even if it may feel like summer, never leave shore in just a t-shirt and shorts. It only takes just a short change of weather or a dunking to drench you and the hypothermia clock starts ticking. A bright colored rain parka can also be seen at great distances.
Going remote? Go Personal Locator Beacon (PLB): Advances in GPS technology have brought down the cost of personal locator beacons, but if your budget is tight you can still rent a PLB from the BoatUS Foundation for $45 weekly, plus shipping. There are no additional subscriber fees and paddlers going to remote locations can order online at BoatUS.org/epirb or call 888-663-7472 (Tip: mention code “DISC10” for a 10% discount on the weekly PLB rental rate through December 1, 2014).
Keep it secure up top: If you need to get your favorite kayak or stand-up paddleboard to the lake on your car or truck’s roof this fall, go toBoatUS.com/addingpaddlecraft for a quick read on the three basic types of roof rack systems and ways to safely tie down the load. Your kayak has no desire to meet the road or become a hazard for oncoming vehicles.
Life Jacket Type Code Labels Go Away
Step Toward Eliminating Confusion and Introduction of New Designs
ANNAPOLIS, MD. September 30, 2014 -- In a move that’s expected to benefit recreational boaters, on Oct. 22 the US Coast Guard will drop the current life jacket type code scheme -- Type I, II, III, IV and V -- that has been used for years to label and differentiate the types of life jackets and their specific use. Chris Edmonston, BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety President and Chairman of the National Safe Boating Council, said, “The boating safety community believes this move by the Coast Guard will help lead the way toward more comfortable and innovative life jacket designs, help boaters stay on the right side of the law, lower costs, and save lives.”
Explains Edmonston, “This is positive news is that we will no longer see a Type I, II, III, IV or V label on a new life jacket label after Oct. 22. This type coding was unique to the United States, tended to confuse boaters, limited choice and increased the cost of life jackets.” He says removing the type coding is a first step towards the adoption of new standards that will eventually simplify life jacket requirements for recreational boaters.
“This move is expected to lead to the introduction of new life jacket designs, especially those made in other countries as US standards will be more ‘harmonized,’ initially Canada and eventually the European Union,” said Edmonston. “Along with a wider variety, aligning our standards with those to our neighbor to the north and across the Atlantic will help reduce prices as manufacturers won’t have to make products unique to the US market.”
However, Edmonston cautions boaters must still abide by the current standards when using older life jackets marked with the Type I-V labeling, as they will remain legal for use. “We must continue to have a properly fitted life jacket for all aboard, and as always, you’ll need to follow the label’s instructions regardless of when it was made. Simply put, if you follow the label, you’re following the law.” A full list of the current life jacket types and descriptions can be found at BoatUS.org/life-jackets, and any update on new life jacket types and styles will be posted here when available.
In additional effort to help change the mindset of what a life jacket must look like, The BoatUS Foundation, the Personal Floatation Device Manufacturers Association (PFDMA) and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), recently kicked off a “Innovations in Life Jacket Design Competition” to seek out the newest technologies and design ideas. Running through April 15, 2015, the contest seeks entries from groups or individuals, including collegiate design programs, armchair inventors or even boat and fishing clubs. Entries may be as simple as hand-drawn theoretical designs to working prototypes and will be judged based on four criteria: wearability, reliability, cost and innovation. For more, go to BoatUS.org/design
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.
ANNAPOLIS, Md., March 20, 2012 - Inflatable Life Jackets - which automatically or manually inflate with the tug of a pull cord - have been around over 25 years, but there are still quite a few misperceptions about how these life saving devices work. The BoatUS Foundation set out to debunk some of the myths:
1. Inflatable life jackets are zero maintenance - Let's face it, pretty much nothing on a boat is zero maintenance. Before you head out for the day, simply check to ensure the CO2 cylinder is screwed firmly in and you can see the green indicator tab. Once a year, take it out and blow it up with your mouth, wait overnight, inspect for wear and check for leaks. Repacking is a task made simple - a few folds and a tuck - as instructions are found printed inside the cover flap. Most life jackets that automatically inflate when you hit the water also have small dissolvable components that periodically need replacement, but it's a simple process. A rearming "kit" comes with everything you need.
2. One size fits all - While most inflatables are sized as "universal adult," all have adjustable cinch straps that will provide a good fit for nearly every size of grown-up on the boat. Inshore-type jackets tend to be less bulky and are more compact than those jackets designed for offshore use. There are no inflatables for kids under 16, but the BoatUS Foundation is working with other national boating safety groups and the US Coast Guard to increase support for inflatable jackets that are more suitable for kids.
3. Not a lot of choices - Actually, there are. Once you get past a range of colorful designs, there are two basic styles of inflatable life jackets: over-the shoulder suspender-style and waist-fitting belt pack. All US Coast Guard-approved inflatable life jackets have a mark showing its type and how it should be used. A big advantage is that inflatables can provide nearly twice the buoyancy of similarly-rated foam life jackets, and are also are better in terms of righting a person in the water, when compared to some other traditional types.
4. Inflatable life jackets are too expensive - Inflatable life jackets start at under $100. That is a real expense for some, but consider that a cheap life jacket that no one will want to wear is as useless as a hook without the worm. Belt pack types tend to be less expensive than suspender style, while automatically-inflatable types or those with extras like an integral sailing harness increase the price.
5. Inflatable life jackets are uncomfortable - Baloney! Inflatable life jackets are compact, don't trap body heat, give full body movement, and can be as unobtrusive as small bait pouch attached to your belt. Look for one that has a neoprene chafe guard around the neck and one that can be adjusted to prevent it from shifting from side to side.