Getting out on the water is one of the best possible ways to relax and enjoy nature. Whether you’re fishing on a peaceful lake, kayaking through white water, or sailing from Maine to Georgia, your goal is enjoyment. And in order for that to happen, there are certain safety precautions that you need to know and follow. This summer, because of COVID-19, there may be additional safety strategies in place as well. In this post, we’ll examine 3 ways for you, your family, and friends to stay safe while boating this summer.
Individual Actions for Safety
The single most important safety measure that you can take on the water is wearing your life jacket. Everyone on your boat should have a properly-fitting, US Coast Guard approved life jacket, and everyone should wear it. Simply having the life jacket on board doesn’t guarantee safety. When something goes wrong, it happens fast, and 84% of those who drowned on US waterways in 2018 were not wearing life jackets. If you’re the operator of the vessel, it’s crucial that you don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Other ways to ensure the safety of all aboard is to maintain a reasonable speed, pay attention to other vessels and people on the water, and know and follow boating rules, particularly those relating to meeting and maneuvering around other boats, and interpreting buoys.
Your boat needs to be in top-notch condition before you take it on the water. You should check that all lights are functional and correctly positioned. And make sure you have your boat’s registration clearly visible. Do you have an appropriate emergency kit on board? It should contain first aid supplies, 2 forms of communication that will work even if wet (like satellite phones), flares (and water if you are going to be in the ocean). If you have any concerns at all, you could schedule a Vessel Safety Check with your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons before you hit the water. Every Vessel Safety Check is conducted 100 percent free of charge.
Special COVID-19 Precautions
The COVID-19 pandemic has required a lot of changes to ordinary life. Now that lockdown is easing and we are learning what our new normal might be, you’re probably anxious to get out onto the water. Before towing your boat to your favorite boat ramp, look up your local regulations. They’ll let you know the regulations particular to the COVID-19 situation. Most ramps or boat docks are open, though you can anticipate the whole process taking longer than usual because of the social distancing. You’ll almost certainly need to stay at least 6 feet away from other boats on the water as well; no multiple boat tie-ups! Many places have restrictions on the number of people allowed on board a boat. In Maine, it’s 10. Be sure to wash your hands or use a high-alcohol sanitizer after fueling, and don’t share equipment.
When you observe the special precautions put in place because of COVID-19, you make boating safer for everyone. When your boat is in good working order and equipped with all necessary safety supplies, you minimize the risk to everyone on board. And when you behave responsibly by staying alert and assuring everyone wears a life jacket, you create an atmosphere where your family and friends can enjoy their time on the water. After the lockdown, we’ll all be delighted to be back on our beautiful waterways; following these 3 tips will increase your pleasure by decreasing your worry.