While boating safety is essential. That doesn’t mean having all the safety equipment in the boat is safe. While driving the boat, you should pay attention and drive the boat safely.
- Tie the kill switch to your life jacket
- Don’t exceed the boat weighted capacity
- Don’t drink and drive
- Be careful in shallow water
- Operate trim tabs properly
- Know the controls properly
- Maintain proper distance between the boats
- Look around you
- Know the boating rules
- Know about your boat
- Tell your float plan to your friends or family
- Check the weather before starting
- Keep all the communication devices
- Keep all the safety equipment in the boat
These are the basic rules you need to follow to drive a boat safely in the water. But the whole safety depends on the operating person. Like how he is operating the boat? Does he follow the rules?
1. Tie the kill switch to your life jacket
The essential thing you need to do while boating is to tie the kill switch to your hand or life jacket or PFD. If the engine is on, then you need to tie the kill switch. Let’s see why do we need to tie the kill switch to a life jacket or PDF.
You need to tie the kill switch to a life jacket or PDF because while operating the boat, if you fell overboard in the water, then the boat will be moving in the forward direction, and you can’t reach the boat. To prevent that, we are tying the kill switch to a life jacket or PDF.
What it does is if you move away from the steering wheel, then the key will come out and stop the engine. So, if you fell overboard, you can reach the boat and you can climb and get into the boat quickly.
This will be extremely helpful if you are alone on a boat, and if you fall off a boat. The boat will stop automatically. Else, the boat will be moving forward in the water, and sometimes you can’t reach the boat. This will be the worst situation.
2. Don’t exceed the boat weighted capacity
This is an essential thing you need to see if your boat is exceeding the capacity or not. For many boats, you can see the weight capacity of the boat near the stern or helm.
If the weight capacity of the boat exceeded the maximum limit, then the boat might tilt or capsize, and everyone will fall in the water. Sometimes, people might trap under the boat. To prevent all those things, don’t overload the boat.
If you don’t have the boats maximum weight capacity sticker on the boat, then follow the rule of thumb for finding how many members can sit in a boat.
You can find that by using this formula. Length of the boat times width of the boat divided by 15. Then you will get how many members can sit in the boat. In this case, the weight of each person is the average weight (around 150 lbs).
3. Don’t drink and drive
Boating under the influence is causing the majority of deaths in America. According to the united states coast Guard, 287 accidents happened due to driving under influence. So, boating under the influence causes many problems.
Boating under the influence can affect your balance, which is very crucial in the boat. When you are unstable in moving platforms (like a boat), you can easily fall overboard. Alcohol decreases the ability to react to several different signals at once. So, don’t do boating under the influence.
If you are boating under the influence and fall overboard, then it is very difficult to get back into the boat. Suppose, if you are alone in the boat, then it is very hard to get back into the boat. If you are not alone in the boat, then with the help of your friends, you might get in the boat.
With alcohol in your blood, the numbing effects of cold water occur much faster than when you are sober. Within minutes, you may not be able to call for help, swim to a float, or reach the safety of the boat.
Check this Boatus website on boating under influence click here(don’t worry, it will open in new tab).
4. Be careful in shallow water
If you are not driving the boat in shallow water, then you need not worry about this. Mostly, you will encounter this if you are boating near the shore of the lake or pond.
Boating in the shallow water may damage the lower part outboard motor (propeller) or the hull. It is expensive to get it repaired. So, be cautious if you are driving the boat in shallow water.
If you are boating in muddy water or boating at night, then you might not see the depth of the water with your eyes properly. To find the water depth, you need to install depth finder in your boat. Nowadays you can find the water depth with fish finder too.
Knowing the water depth is very helpful, you can avoid so many accidents by finding the depth in prior. By installing the depth finder in your boat, you can operate the boat peacefully in the water, without bothering about the depth.
Check my article on 12 Tips for boating in shallow waters (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the things you need to see or check while boating in shallow water.
5. Operate trim tabs properly
The trim tabs are adjustable stainless steel planes mounted at the transom end of a boat used for leveling the boat or getting into the plane quickly. Now assume that you are driving a boat, and two of your friends came and sat on the port side of a boat, then the boat will tilt on that side. To compensate that we will use trim tabs.
If you are driving the boat with full speed, then the bow part of the boat will be in the air due to speed. To balance that, we will use the trim tabs. Not only for that, if there is more weight on any side of the boat, to balance that we will use trim tabs.
If you didn’t operate the trim tabs properly, there is a chance for an accident. If you didn’t operate it properly, then the boat might tilt on the side, which has more weight causing a major accident. So, operate the trim tabs properly to be safe on a boat.
6. Know the controls properly
If you are driving the boat for the first time or driving your friend’s boat for the first time, you need to know all the controls in the boat properly. Suppose, if you are in critical time (like you saw the danger is heading towards you), then you need to act quickly.
To act quickly you need to know where all the controls are located in the boat. Before getting into the boat, check for everything in the boat and then start your ride.
It is similar to a car if you are driving your friend’s car. First, you will adjust everything (like a seat, mirrors, etc) and check the controls and their position in the car, and then only you will start the ride. So, while driving the boat, know all the control positions properly.
7. Maintain proper distance between the boats
This is an essential thing to do while boating to prevent any boat collisions. Maintain at least 30 feet or more distance between your boat and other boats to prevent any collision.
While boating, if any big wave comes, then the boat will shake, and the boat might get out of the path. If there are any other boaters near your boat, then you might hit them.
8. Know the boating rules
Knowing the boating rules is essential if you are driving the boat. Now I will explain some basic rules. Without knowing them, you might cause problems for you and other boaters too.
Suppose, if someone comes in the opposite direction, then you need to turn a little bit towards the right side, they also will do the same. If you don’t know the rules, then if you turn towards the left side, you might hit the boat, which is coming in the opposite direction.
The basic rules for a boat are (Now assume that you are driving the boat, and you see the boat approaching, then do accordingly, the boats are moving in X-axis direction, and you are moving in Y-direction assume like that).
- If the boat is moving towards the left side. Then you should give them the way, let them cross first and then you make a move.
- If the boat is moving towards the right side. Then you should give them the way, let them cross first and then you make a move.
- If you see the boat coming in the opposite direction, then you need to move a little bit towards the right side and then move on.
These are some of the basic boating rules, you need to know while boating. So, don’t forget to check the USCG website for more boating rules. The better way is to take a small boating course, many of them are free.
9. Look around you
According to the coast guard of the united states, 620 accidents happened due to operator inattention in the year of 2017.
Checking the surroundings is crucial while boating. You need to see the surroundings and then make the move accordingly. You need to see whether there are any obstacles in front of you or any boat is coming closer to you or not and like that.
The movement you get into the boat, you need to check the surroundings and remember other boat locations (if any) and watch their movement, whether they are coming closer to you or not, and checking the depth constantly is essential too.
If you are boating in fog or at night, then observing the surroundings is a must because you can’t see anything properly. Sometimes, based on the sound signal given by the big ships, you need to make the move, and sometimes based on the light signals given by other boats, you need to make the move.
Sometimes, you might save others by observing the surroundings. So, observe the surroundings regularly to avoid any problems while boating and know the basic boating rules to communicate with other boaters properly.
10. Know about your boat
What do I mean by that is know the places where you will keep all the important things in the boat (like safety equipment). At the time of any emergency, you need to know where are the safety equipment kept in the boat.
If someone is drowning in the water, then you need to through a throwable floatation device or ring immediately. All the safety equipment should be in a hand reachable distance. You need to act quickly and save them, and you should not make a delay while doing that process.
To make that quick, you need to know where all the safety equipment is placed in the boat, then only you can do that quickly. So, keep all the safety equipment in a reachable distance and know their locations in the boat as well.
11. Tell your float plan to your friends or family
Sometimes, this will help you a lot. Don’t forget to give your full float plan (exactly where you are going, how long it will take to come back home, and how many people are going) to one of your friends or neighbors. Just in case if you didn’t reach your home in time.
If you didn’t show up early, your family members or friends will inform to coast guards about your float plan and everything. Then the coast guards will make the move quickly and they will find you quickly.
While boating, if you change the plan or if you modified the plan, don’t forget to inform your family members or friends. If you think that you might show up late, even then inform your family members or neighbors. It is a good practice to have a float plan and informing others.
12. Check the weather before starting
Checking the weather is essential. The whole boat ride depends on the weather. Before starting the boating, just open the phone and check the weather. Then decide whether it is good to start boating or not.
You should check the weather constantly while boating as well. So, turn your VHF radio and listen to channel 16 (it will tell the weather updates 24/7).
13. Keep all the communication devices
Communication devices play a crucial role while boating. Without these devices, you can’t drive a boat peacefully in the water. The basic communication devices are
- 1. Vhf radio
- 2. EPIRB
- 3. Satellite phone or messenger
With the help of these, you can tell your location and ask for help by contacting the coat guards or informing your family numbers. The above four devices are enough for communicating with others while boating.
Check my article on Communication devices for a boat: All you need (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I listed all the communications devices you need on a boat.
1. VHF radio
Vhf radio is essential for a boat, with the help of this device you can communicate with others(other boaters or coast guards). If you are in an emergency, then by pressing the emergency switch on the back of the radio will send your location to the coast guards or other boaters near you.
Vhf radio is a very common device you will see on many boats. The most reliable, least expensive, and the best way to get in touch with the coast guards is with the help of VHF radio.
Check my article on Communication devices for a boat: All you need(don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In this article, I mentioned what all communications devices you need while boating and the buyers’ guide for them too.
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon is essential for a boat because whenever you are in an emergency, you can use this device to send the alert to the coast guards. EPIRB transmits signals directly to the satellite. So, the coast guard will get notified, and they will help you out.
This device will alert search and rescue services (SAR) in case of an emergency out at sea. It is a tracking device that transmits a signal on a specified band to locate a lifeboat or people in distress.
EPIRB transmits signals directly to the satellite. The signal consists of a digital code that gives information such as the boat’s identification, date of the event, the nature of distress, and the position.
The satellite receiving terminals on the ground (Local User Terminal) uses that digital code and send it to MRCC (Mission Rescue Co-Ordination Centre). The MRCC is responsible for the SAR operations and oversees the execution of the rescue mission.
3. Satellite phone or messenger
If you are going far away from the coast or living on a boat or holiday trip in a boat, then you need a satellite phone. Other than that, you don’t need a satellite phone in general.
The name itself tells us that it is used to call or send messages or sometimes emails with the help of the satellite. If you are in an emergency, then you can inform the coast guards with these devices. These satellite devices are very essential for boaters.
But, buy either a satellite phone or a satellite messenger, don’t but both of them at a time. If you have a satellite phone, it is enough and vice versa. If you already have a satellite messenger or an EPIRB, then no need to buy a satellite phone.
14. Keep all the requirements in the boat
Remember this before going boating, have a checklist, of things that you need to be taken whenever you are going boating. Keep that checklist on the boat, near the entrance or the steering wheel, so that you won’t forget those things on the list.
Check my article on Safety equipment for a boat: 31 things you need (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the safety equipment you need for boating in lakes and seas.
Boating is a fun sport, be careful while boating and have all the safety equipment in the boat. The best way to avoid accidents while boating is by driving the boat slowly and observing the surroundings properly.