With American's busiest boating holiday, July 4, upon us, the waterways will soon be brimming boaters. The BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water says that making a few extra preparations ahead of time will go a long way towards increasing your family and friend's safety and fun on the water.
Here are ten tips that will help you stay safe this July 4 holiday weekend:
1. Put safety into your weekend plan: The Foundation's free Online Boating "Toolbox" at www.BoatUS.com/Foundation/Guide has helpful information on trip planning and preparation, boating equipment, emergency preparation, navigation, and quizzes to test your knowledge. The Foundation also offers a free NASBLA-approved online boating safety course for residents of more than 30 states at www.BoatUS.org/Onlinecourse.
2. "Little" guests need life jackets: Everyone wants to be on the boat this holiday weekend, but do you have the right-sized life jacket aboard for any visiting kids? The BoatU.S. Foundation loans children's life jackets for free at over 350 marinas, fuel docks, and other waterfront businesses and boat clubs. To find a location near you go to www.BoatUS.com/Foundation/LJLP.
3. Take your time to get home: July 4 is the one time a year many fair-weather boaters-who may rarely navigate in the dark-venture out after the sun goes down. The most reported type of boating accident is a collision with another vessel so it's a good idea to keep your speed down, post an extra lookout, and ensure all your navigation lights work. A spotlight is a must, and ensure all safety gear is readily available and life jackets are worn. Be extra vigilant about not running over anchor lines in crowded fireworks viewing areas, and don't take shortcuts in the dark.
4. Wear life jackets: Almost three-quarters of all fatal boating accident victims drown, and of those, 87 percent are not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can happen very quickly, sometimes leaving no time to don a life jacket.
5. Don't overload your boat: Resist the urge to invite more friends or family to the fireworks show than what your boat was designed to carry. Heavily loaded small boats and those with little freeboard are more susceptible to swamping from weather or wake action associated with heavy July 4 boating traffic.
6. It's a long day: A full day in the sun will increase alcohol's effects on the body, so it's better to wait until you're safely back at the dock or home before breaking out the libations. Also bring lots of water, a VHF radio, and check the weather reports to avoid storms.
7. Know how to get back in the boat: A fall overboard can turn into a life-threatening situation pretty quickly, especially for small boats without built-in boarding ladders. The BoatU.S. Foundation recently tested a range of portable boarding ladders, and you may be surprised what they found. To view video of these ladders in our boarding tests, or learn which ladder may be best for you, see the Foundation Findings #44 at www.BoatUS.com/Foundation.
8. Never run the engine when swimmers are in the water: Raft-ups, or groups of boats tied together in a protected anchorage, is a great way to spend the holiday with fellow boating friends. But you should never run an engine with swimmers in the water near exhaust ports or props. Even though the boat's transmission may not be in gear, propellers can still rotate, and odorless, colorless carbon monoxide can quickly overcome swimmers.
9. Take a local boating safety class: The Foundation has a complete list of boating safety courses taught in communities across the country. To find one near you, go to www.BoatUS.com/Courseline.
10. Cruising offshore? An emergency position indicating rescue beacon (EPIRB) from the BoatU.S. Foundation's EPIRB rental program will give you the margin of safety you need during an offshore passage. These $750 beacons rent for just $40 per week (plus shipping). Go to www.BoatUS.com/Foundation/Epirb.