We’d all like to believe that if we had to retake our written driver’s license test today that we’d all pass with flying colors. Why, because most of us have been driving for a long time and we feel we know everything there is to know about driving.
But do you know how far you should stop from the tracks when a train is passing by? Or how about how many car lengths you need to be from the guy in front of you when driving 65 miles per hour down the freeway? Yeah, we could all probably use a refresher course if we were honest with ourselves. But unless you move to another state, you might never have to remember or know some of the specifics that you once had to memorize just to get your license.
Well safety tips are kind of like that written driver’s test, minus the angry DMV clerk that schedules a smile once a year whether she needs it or not. Reminders are a good thing. If you’ve been boating for 20 plus years or this is your first season, there is still plenty of safety tips that you could use a refresher course on. Most of these tips you’ll glance at and think to yourself, “Yeah, I already knew that one.” But it’s still a good idea just to keep them in mind so you don’t forget.
Tip 1: Sun Sensitivity Training
For being the most prominent feature in our solar system, the sun doesn’t seem to get a lot of respect. I’m not sure who was unlucky enough to draw the short straw, but somehow they know the surface temperature of the sun is 11,000 degrees. Now that’s toasty.
In pursuit of the ultimate summer tan, we often overexpose ourselves to the sun and usually it’s on the first day of our week-long trip. But a bad sunburn can keep your skin tender for days. It may even send you to the hospital. But that temporary discomfort that you have pales alongside the cumulative effect of frequent and severe sunburns: skin cancer.
Sun exposure, particularly large but irregular doses of it without sunscreen, is the number one cause of skin cancer and that’s why this is our number one tip. Sunscreen, long-sleeved clothing and wide-brimmed hats are examples of things you can wear or apply to protect yourself from the sun's damaging rays.
The quickest way to ruin your boating trip is to get sunburned early. So take the necessary precautions to protect yourself this summer.
Tip 2: Getting High
If the temperature wasn’t high, you probably wouldn’t be out on the water looking to cool down. So it may seem like an odd tip to tell you to watch out for high temperatures and humidity. But even adults get so caught up in having fun that they ignore the signs of overexertion and heat-related illnesses. When you’re out on the water, pay attention to your thirst, rest often and stop if you feel weak, dizzy or fatigued.
I’m sure your cooler has a wide variety of beverages, but one drink that every boater should have on hand is plenty of water. Water isn’t just for kids, the driver or for that weird guy that doesn’t drink alcohol. Water is for everyone that is interested in not getting dehydrated
It’s recommended that you drink about eight cups of water a day, just to replace the fluids your body loses. But when you’re out on your boat in the hot sun, it becomes even more important to keep your body hydrated.
Tip 3: Swim Happy
Nothing's more enjoyable than a cool dip on a hot day, but the fun can evaporate with terrifying speed. Don't let it happen. Learn to swim. Supervise those who don't know how. The American Red Cross offers swimming courses for everyone. If you're not comfortable taking a class, arrange for private instruction. But if you’re going to be doing a lot of boating, it’s a good idea to know how to swim.
This leads to another debate that’s about as settled as the Ford versus Chevy argument. By law you must have a lifejacket on board for everyone on your boat—that’s not up for debate. But what does seem to stir up a lot of controversy is actually wearing those lifejackets.
Kids are required to wear a pfd, but many adults don’t. The reason for the debate is because wearing a lifejacket on a hot day when there is no perceived risk of danger doesn’t make a lot of sense to most.
So really it just goes back to being prepared by having enough lifejackets on board and knowing how to swim.
Tip 4: Stay Clear
As the captain, it’s up to you to protect your passengers from carbon monoxide. In the last few years this has become a big topic in this industry, but this is actually something that has been around for a long time. Simple fact—boat engines emit carbon monoxide, an odorless, but deadly, gas.
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, keep passengers away from the engine, both in the boat and in the water. Swimming around the boat will always be popular, especially for those with pontoon boats. Kids love to swim between the pontoons. But it makes no sense at all to have the engine running when you have swimmers around your boat, so don’t do it.
When pulling a tuber or a skier, be sure to shut the engine off when it comes time to bring them in. Carbon monoxide poisoning may take a moment, but having your swimmers step on moving prop while getting back in the boat will end your day in a hurry. Again, there is no reason to have your engine going at this time.
Tip 5: Fending Off Food Poisoning
Where you find boating, you’ll usually find food of some kind. They just go together. Sometimes it’s just snacks and other times it’s full meals. If given the choice, a lot of people would prefer a burger cooked on their own grill. Some of the best burgers you can have come from a barbecue grill mounted on a boat.
So grab that tempting burger that has a little pink in the middle that has been sizzling on the grill. Grab a bun, scoop up the patty and…hold on not so fast. You might regret it. In warm weather, careless food preparation—such as an undercooked burger—and improper food storage can be disastrous. Don't let an outbreak of food poisoning ruin your good time.
Cooking your burgers completely is just the beginning. Most boats today come standard with some type of cooler. But without enough ice, it’s really just another box. If you’re planning on having lunch later in the day, it’s a good idea to bring two coolers to limit the number of times you open and close your food cooler on a hot day.
Bring one cooler that is full of drinks, snacks and remember to bring plenty of water (See tip two if you’ve already forgot that you need to have plenty of H2O). Then in your second cooler place meats, cheeses, condiments and other items that you won’t need until lunch time. Constantly getting into your cooler can lead to the ice melting quicker, which can lead to spoiled foods, which of course will lead to a spoiled weekend.
Tip 6: Sucking The Fun Out
Mosquito bites aren't just annoying. Sometimes they transmit disease. Repellents and clothing can all help keep these pesky critters away. Mosquitoes are annoying, but have you ever heard of a little thing called the West Nile virus? Talk about a buzz kill, this virus has done some serious damage in this country and elsewhere.
While your risk of getting diseases from mosquitoes is still low, your risk of being annoyed by mosquitoes is still quite high. In fact, mosquitoes may be so annoying that you don't even enjoy spending time on the water. Although mosquitoes are most prevalent at dawn and at dusk, it's not always desirable to load the boat on the trailer early and head indoors just to avoid this period. Besides, this may be the peak time for some fun activities.
But you can take steps to keep those pesky mosquitoes at bay, no matter what time of day it is. With some basic steps, you and your family may spend less time scratching itchy bites and more time enjoying your time on your boat.
You might not have read anything that you hadn’t already heard before, but that’s okay. The important thing is that you’ve now taken a quick mini course on how to be safe this summer.
The things you do on your boat will give you memories you'll cherish forever. Unfortunately, a moment's carelessness can have the opposite effect. While you can't eliminate all risks, you can certainly reduce the odds of a potentially tragic accident. What's more, the measures that save the most lives are also some of the simplest—putting on a life jacket, for instance. When safety automatically comes first, you can truly start to have fun.