Many of you who have probably gotten out those dusty boats and launched them already. It’s time for some fun and sun on the water! There’s nothing more fun than going fishing, skiing, or for a leisure ride in a boat. Some of the best memories we have were teaching our kids and their friends to waterski. We even had a life jacket for our Cairn terrier, Willie. A game warden was very surprised to see that little dog wearing it, and commented that in all his years of work, he had seen only one other dog wearing a life jacket. Willie had a bad habit of getting on the bow of the boat and falling in, so all we had to do was pick him up with a dip net to rescue him, while his jacket kept him afloat!
The National Safe Boating Council, Inc. (NSBC) was organized in September of 1958. The NSBC has a current membership of over 330 U.S. and Canadian organizations, all interested in boating safety and education, by promoting Safe Boating Week. I have included a sample pledge card in this article, which is a common-sense agreement regarding the responsibility that you owe yourself and your friends and family any time you operate a boat. If you wish to sign this pledge, you can go to the National Safe Boating Council website. Beginning boaters and experts alike should be familiar with boating safety rules of operation. State boater education requirements vary by state. Be educated, aware and prepared for every circumstance that may arise. The U.S. Coast Guard offers free Vessel Safety Checks. They offer complimentary boat examinations to verify the condition of certain safety equipment that is required by State and Federal regulations. They also offer virtual online safety checks as well.
In a previous article, “Before You Make That Big Splash,” shares other information about boating, including the five types of life jackets (PFD’s) – personal flotation devices. There are many other resources that one should check out before taking off in that new boat. Safety is the big thing when it comes to operating a boat. Many lives are in the hands of the driver, the same as a vehicle on the road. And don’t be surprised when a local game warden checks your boat out to ensure that there are plenty of life jackets and other required equipment onboard.
Regardless of where you are boating – in fresh or salt water, on a river or a lake, the one common point throughout this article is the importance of wearing a life jacket. In about 80% of all fatal boating accidents, the cause of death is drowning. In 90% of those drownings, the person wasn’t wearing a life jacket. Each person on your boat should have a life jacket on; it won’t help if it’s under the seat when they fall in. Life jackets are not as bulky as in the past; there are many styles that are comfortable and easy to put on. It may be hot, but it sure beats the risk of drowning. Accidents have been known to happen to good swimmers. If Willie wore his, you can, too!
Check the weather conditions before starting your boating trip. If the water becomes rough, get to the shore as soon as possible. Be sure you have a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit on your boat. It is also a good idea to have a second person that knows how to operate your boat, just in case. The most important part of boating safety is using common sense. Operate at a safe speed, stay clear of large vessels, and be respectful of other boaters. Staying safe in a boat (everyone) is accomplished when drinking alcohol is saved for later (on land). Chances of being involved in a boating accident are doubled when alcohol is involved.
Here is a sample of the National Safe Boating Council pledge card:
pledge to boat safely each and every time I go out on the water, keeping myself, my family, my friends and fellow boaters from harm’s way. I will always boat responsibly by (please check each line)
|Wearing my life jacket and ensuring that everyone on board wears their life jacket (when in a small boat, or operating in rough water or threatening weather conditions)___|
|Remaining sober and alert – remembering that the use of alcohol contributes to accidents on the water___|
|Staying in control of my craft and respecting the right of others enjoying the waterways___|
|Knowing and obeying navigation rules, operating at a safe speed and maintaining a proper lookout___|
Please make the decision to honor the rules of boating safety for yourself, family, and friends.
Sources: NSBC, discoverboating.com