Plan ahead and know the rules. Before launching your boat, learn the nautical “rules of the road” by taking a boater safety class. They are a large part of boating safety, especially when meeting, crossing, or overtaking another boat. Learning the meaning of buoys and other water markers, maintain a safe speed, and keep a watchful eye on the waters for smooth sailing. Take a boating safety course. Boating safety courses are quick, inexpensive, and effective. Check the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Resource Center for approved boating courses.
Have a float plan. If you’re going to be on the water for a couple hours, make sure someone on land knows where you’re going and when you plan to return. If you’re heading out for a longer stretch, leave a written float plan with the marina or a friend that can aid rescuers in case of an emergency. (You cannot file a float plan with the Coast Guard.) In addition to the where and when information, your float plan should include identifying details about your boat, a passenger list, and your boat’s safety and survival equipment, including radio information. Appoint an assistant skipper. Don’t be the only person on your boat who knows how to operate the vessel and where the safety and first aid equipment is stored. Make sure someone else can get your boat back to shore if you can’t.
Check the weather. Consult local forecasts before heading out, especially during hurricane season. If you do run into dark clouds, increasing winds, or sudden extreme temperature drops while on the water, head back to shore. If you do get caught in a storm, put the PFDs on and keep everyone low in the boat. Have communication options. Bring a mobile phone sealed in a water resistant bag, but don’t rely on it completely. Ideally, you should have a VHF marine radio with DCS (Digital-Coded Squelch) that can give the Coast Guard your position in an emergency.
Use a kill switch lanyard. On a power boats and personal watercrafts, this simple tether between you and the ignition key shuts the engine off if you fall overboard or lose your balance while driving, reducing the potential for harm to you or others in the water.
Check your equipment and supplies. Take time to go over the condition of your important safety, signal, and survival gear, including: Additional clothing, such as warm clothes, a hat, and foul weather gear Anchor and extra line Bailer or bilge pump Boat trailer Charts of the local area and a compass Fire extinguishers First-aid kit Food and water Fuel and batteries Paddles Personal items (sunscreen, medicines, sunglasses) PFDs Lights Sound producing device (for signaling other craft and potential rescuers) Visual distress signal Tool kit for repairs
Get your boat inspected. If you’re not sure your boat is safe, get a Vessel Safety Check (VSC). A VSC is a free examination of your boat courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary to verify the presence and condition of all required safety equipment. Unlike our automobiles, most of us find ourselves on a boat in order to enjoy some relaxation and recreation. Just don’t let your quest for fun on the water make you complacent about boating safety.
Know and follow the rules so that everyone has a good time and gets back to dry land safe and sound. The information in this article was obtained from various sources. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure.
The information is not intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. Nor is it intended to effect coverage under any policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information. We assume no liability in connection with the information nor the suggestions made.