by Julie Ngo
Most of us, even if we’re lucky enough to own our own boats, don’t spend the majority of our time on the water. That general lack of familiarity and experience is why when you do set out in a watercraft — whether for fishing, swimming and water skiing, or just cruising — it’s extremely important to familiarize yourself with the rules, requirements, and recommendations of boating safety. The following tips and guidelines are compiled from state and national boating safety organizations, including the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Easiest Boating Safety Tip: Wear a Life Jacket Statistics show that most boating fatality victims weren’t wearing a personal floatation device (PFD) and that 9 out of 10 of those water deaths might have been prevented with a PFD. A life jacket should be available for each person aboard and be worn or properly stowed. Jackets should fit snugly and be the appropriate size — remember that adult jackets will not work for children. Check the PFD laws in your state, and test your jackets once a year for leaks and buoyancy.
Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Hunters and fishermen boating during colder-weather months should remember that cold water can kill. If you can’t swim, take lessons. Even a few rudimentary lessons could someday mean the difference between life and drowning. If your boat capsizes, stay with it. Not only will it provide floatation assistance, but it’s easier for rescuers to spot.
Keep a Clear Head Be aware of carbon monoxide. All internal combustion engines produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, and poisonous gas. Poor cabin ventilation, blocked exhaust outlets, and faulty equipment can contribute to the problem, but carbon monoxide emissions can affect the boat’s swim platform and other areas near the engine. Be especially careful when moving slowly, idling, or stopped, and when you’re near another boat’s engine emissions. Install carbon monoxide detectors on your boat and be aware of the early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as headaches, nausea, weakness, and irritated eyes — stay alert for symptoms that might initially seem like simple seasickness or intoxication.
Speaking of intoxication, don’t drink and boat. The use of alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Boating under the influence (BUI or BWI) is as serious a legal offense as driving while intoxicated. Additionally, the detrimental physical effects of drinking while boating can be even more severe — the motion, noise, sun, wind, and spray on the water is more exhausting than usual, accelerating the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
Julie Ngo is a State Farm Insurance Agent located at 28410 Old Town Front Street in Temecula. She can be reached at (951) 695-2625.