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5 Tips to Safe Boating

There is a lot to being a safe captain of a boat. I was a licensed captain for over 30 years so I’ve seen things go wrong out at sea. In order to pass along a little boat safety I’ve organized the information in 5 safety tips. They are:

Have a safe boat- The hull should be sound without dry rot. If it’s an inboard then the cutless bearing should be properly maintained and replaced as needed. The shaft packing should be sealing properly. If it’s an outboard you want to be sure the engines are running well and properly maintained. The batteries must be secure, charged and in a dry area. The steering should be lubricated and turning freely. Be sure the drain plug is in. One can always recognize a safe captain by looking at the condition of his boat.

Provide and maintain safety equipment- The life jackets must be in perfect condition and stored where they can be easily obtained in an emergency. There must be one jacket for every person on board. Children must be supplied with a child’s life jacket. An adult jacket should not be used for children. The VHF radio should be working and the emergency frequencies posted for all to see. That would be the US Coast Guard or the harbor master. Flares should be stored in a dry area and replaced annually. You should have a throw ring with line readily available. Maintain a usable anchor with reliable line. Carry a good horn or whistle onboard.

Be weather smart- Know the weather forecast for the day of your trip. Keep in mind any changes forecasted for later in the day. Be aware of the tide changes. The wind directly affects the seas so you should know what the wind is doing for the entire day. You cannot know the weather by simply looking up in the sky. Know the frequency of the weather on your VHF radio. If you know what you are doing, a quick weather change will never catch you off guard.

Be familiar with the Rules of the Road- The rules of the road are rules that were made for boat on boat encounters, day signals, night lights, distress signals and much more. I do not believe one has to know it all unless you want to be a licensed captain. You should know some of this information if you are going to skipper your own boat. How to pass another boat in a channel or limited waterway is important information. Knowing what the horn signals that big ships are blasting at you could come in handy as well. I recommend getting a copy of the Rules of the Road from the coast guard and read it from time to time. The more of this you know the safer you’ll be.

Stay within your limits- This may sound vague but the fact is a lot of accidents are created when people push themselves beyond their knowledge or skills. The ego can lead you to make unsafe decisions. It’s good to be a confident captain but the best captains know when it’s too dangerous. Acknowledging your limits and recognizing your boat’s limits is a big part of being a safe boat operator. I had friends who lost their boat and their lives because they didn’t acknowledge the danger level was too high on the day they went fishing. My advice is to be conservative. The ocean takes people every year.

Christopher P Bassler