Boat Safety Precautions You Should Not Ignore
Most of the claims for boat damage are due to operator negligence or operator error. Most boaters do know the rules however, they just do tend to forget. And it is a very hostile environment that they are operating in. Required safety equipment by federal law and some state laws is really only a minimum and if you think that you go out there and you have this basic equipment, that you’re prepared to go out, then you’re fooling yourself. If you have a life jacket on your boat and you’re not wearing it, you effectively don’t have a life jacket.
Understand the Boat Owner’s Manual
No matter how much safety is built into a boat it’s never going to be a safe boat unless the operator knows the laws observes all the safety rules and reads and understands the boat owner’s manual.
It is critical that the boat owner understand the limitations of a boat and educate himself on boat handling so that he doesn’t try and exceed the safety factors over the boat. Just like a car, if you drive it too hard or you mishandle it, you can end in disaster.
Deeper water vs Shallow water
Oftentimes you’re safer in deeper water than you are in shallow water. In shallow water you get more severe conditions. It’s misconception about transatlantic crossings that your safest when you’re on either coast. In fact, the safer part of the Atlantic Ocean is in the middle. But as you approach the coast that’s where you would find more extreme conditions, plus that’s where you find things to run into.
Check Safety Equipment
Before you go sailing on a boat it’s important to check and make sure that you’re going to be safe while you’re out there and even as a guest or as an owner you should probably make a point to check on the boat that their lifejackets for everyone there. When supplying yourself with your safety equipment it’s critical not just to have it but also to make sure it’s accessible. It doesn’t make any sense to Mount your fire extinguisher such that you would have to reach through the fire to get to it you want to make sure you can get near it.
Well everyone likes to have a good time on the water and it is good opportunity for socializing and having a few drinks but as waters become more crowded you find that more boating accidents are a result of overactivity with alcohol having a little too much fun.
Note that in addition to answering emergency calls it’s the coast guard’s job to enforce federal laws on the water and that includes inspecting safety equipment and monitoring safe boating practices.
Alcohol abuse has led many boaters to exceed the limitations of the craft and causing the mishaps.
Swimming while the motor is running is extremely hazardous. Should the person come near the boat, it will run over them before the operator has a chance to stop.
Many problems could have very well been prevented had the operator of the vessel chosen to use a couple of safe boating rules of thumb, one of which would be the one third rule where you use 1/3 of your fuel too go out in a third to come back and if all goes well you should have a third in reserve should an emergency arise maneuvering.
Beware Commercial Ships
A small boat in and around commercial shipping can be more of a problem than many boat operators think. Many near misses occur every summer where the small craft would be hit by the big ship. Common sense would dictate that the small craft should keep clear the large ship. A ship making 20 knots will travel a mile in three minutes and they can come up upon a small boat amazingly fast particularly in hazy weather where the visibility is somewhat reduced.
One of the important points to remember when approaching a crossing ahead of a large ship is that the pilot loses sight of a small craft a lot farther away than you might expect. A commercial ship that is a little over 800 feet long and a pilot discounting the ship from the bridge about 700 feet from the bow because of the height of the containers stacked forward, loses sight of a small craft perhaps more than half a mile away, an accident that could prove fatal.
Another important point to remember is that a large merchant ships underway, even at a moderate speed, will generate a considerable weight which can capsize a small boat very easily.
Personal Flotation Devices
It’s not very difficult to have a safe boating trip. It’s just common sense when you get in a boat that you should put on your personal flotation device.
If you get in the boat and you smell gasoline fume do not touch anything just get out of the boat, get your passengers out of the boat and check things out before you fire up the engine.
If you are going to buy a new recreational boat, the first thing you should do for sure is read the operators manual and the second thing is take a safe boating class. There’s probably no one more aware of the number of boating accidents than insurance claims officers. They will tell you that most accidents are caused by operator error most of the time. For example, a sailboat will not see another boat because the boater is behind his sail and there’s a lot of blind spots when you’re operating a sailboat.
Sail Boats Precaution
It is so relaxing being on a quiet boat with no motor running that you can sit back and relax and enjoy the ride and not be as aware as you would be at the helm of a power boat. That’s not to say that power boaters don’t have claims. Most of the claims from power boaters are for the same reason; not paying attention (operator error).
Power Boat Precaution
Power boater can run aground just as easily as a sailboat are. He can run into shallower waters if he’s not familiar with the area and has not looked at the charts. Before he goes into an area he can run aground just as easily and do five times as much damage as a sailboat.
Commons fires or explosions are usually cause by fumes developed in the boat and not ventilated after fueling, or just after the boat has been sitting for a while, where there might be a small seepage somewhere in the fuel lines. Some boats actually blow up completely without any fire.
Other accidents can occur in heavy seas. The problem people face is when they fall in cold water and getting hypothermia. The first problem when you fall into water is avoiding drowning. Lot of people fall overboard and if their heads stay underwater when they hit the water they may drown because there’s a reflex called the gasp reflex, particularly in cold water cold water, that makes you go gasp and hyperventilate. If your head is underwater while that’s happening, you’re going to drown. If you survive the sudden immersion in cold water then you have to worry about keeping your head up for a longer period of time and for that you need a life jacket. If you have a good life jacket or personal flotation device the better off you are. If you fall in the cold water and have a life jacket and can keep your head afloat then you need to worry about hypothermia. Your best defence against getting hypothermic is to have protective clothing or insulated clothing like a wet suit or protective insulated coverall. If you have that kind of insulated clothing you can increase your survival time by curling up in a little ball and holding very still in the cold water because movement in cold water increases your rate of heat loss.
If you’re in the water no matter what type of protective clothing you have on your best defence against hypothermia is to get out of the water. What that means for a boater is if he’s hanging onto an overturned boat best defences to climb on top of the boat the more you get your body out of the water.
Once you’re on open waters that are crowded, it is just like today’s highways, so it’s important to know the rules of the road and important to have a checklist that you use before you leave the dock.
- Make sure there are enough PFD’s aboard.
- Are they in good condition?
- Are they readily accessible
- Are there the right number of fire extinguishers and are they checked?
- Have all passengers been briefed on safety features?
- Do they know where emergency equipment is located?
- Can they use distress signals or the radio?
- Does anyone else on board know how to run the boat?
- Does your boat need a flame arrestor?
- If it does, is yours Coast Guard approved?
- Does your boat have the proper system to ventilate bilges and fuel tank compartment?
- Is it clear and working properly?
- Are all parts and equipment rated for marine use? (automobile parts are just not safe)
A safe boating trip that’s what everyone wants and that’s what you’ll have if you work at it.
- Follow the advice of the experts and read your manual.
- Take a boating course from your state boating authority or a volunteer group like the Coast Guard.
- Take Auxiliary courtesy marine examination from the Coast Guard auxiliary.
- Get the booklet on federal boating rules and regulations from your Marina the Coast Guard auxiliary
Enjoy your next boating trip, make it a safe one and take some advice. Twenty years ago, the waterways were not as crowded as they are now. Now you cannot just get in your boat and take your passengers and drive down a Lake. You have to look around and you have to pay attention to what you’re doing just like driving automobile. You cannot start your automobile and just point in one direction and talk to your passenger and glance at the road once in awhile. So, it’s just using common sense makes safe boating if you pay attention to what you’re doing an you pay attention to what the other fellow is doing and pay attention to the rules of the road and have a little courtesy.
Follow these simple directions and you’ll have a safe boating trip.
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