Traveling by land can be hazardous; traveling by sea can be even more so. Before entrusting yourself, your family and friends, and your possessions to the mysteries of the open waters, make sure that you go well-prepared. Just like taking driver’s ed before getting your license, learning how to boat safely is an absolute essential. Here are five boating safety tips to follow – whether you’re on a long-distance trek out on the open ocean or cruising for an afternoon on a lake, you’ll be sailing safely!
Check the Forecast
Before you head out on the water, make sure you know what kind of weather to expect, especially out at sea. The chances of a boating accident increase with inclement weather, particularly storms. Being well-prepared won’t just ensure that you enjoy beautiful weather during your boating excursion. It will also help you to anticipate rain, lightning, or storms and sail around them.
If you do see storm clouds incoming while you’re out on the water, get ashore as soon as possible. If you are too far from land, try to sail around.
Use Proper Equipment
Make sure everything aboard your boat is functioning properly, from the rigging and sails to the satellite and compass. Ensure safety gear, like life jackets, are aboard and that there are enough for everyone (and in the proper size!). If anything on board seems out of sorts or missing, make sure to see these to rights before you set sail.
Should something malfunction while you’re out on the water, though, don’t panic. Use your best common sense, and report any malfunctions or damages to the boat owner when you return your boat rental or charter.
Create a Trip Itinerary
Map out an itinerary as precisely as possible and leave it with family or friends. Detail where you’ll be setting sail from, which destinations you will sail to, how long you will be gone, and when they can expect you to check in. Doing this helps to ensure that someone ashore knows when they may want to contact the Coast Guard or other water authority should they suspect something has happened to you. If you somehow lose contact while out at sea, make contact with your family and friends at home as soon as is possible.
Don’t Get Drunk
The likelihood of a boating accident or a man-overboard increases dramatically with consumption of alcohol. Those aboard should avoid alcohol consumption, particularly if entering rough or choppy waters is a possibility. If you are hosting a party aboard your boat, consume alcohol sparingly and only if you are moored – and then, only if you have a designated person to guard against any accidents, especially drowning.
Become a Competent Swimmer
Being a good swimmer is an extremely important skill that can save your life in the event you fall overboard, particularly on the open ocean. Remember that it only takes two minutes for a human being to drown. It may take longer than that for others aboard the boat to pull it around to get you back aboard.
In addition to becoming a competent swimmer, be as physically fit as you can. Contending with the sea demands a lot of strength. Even a calm cruise aboard a boat on a sunny day has its own rigors!
Sailing safely doesn’t have to be complicated. The risks involved – as with any other adventurous undertaking, from driving to hiking – need not be panic-inducing. Following these tips will help you minimize the risks of the open waters, and feeling prepared will help you enjoy your boating trip that much more.