Boating is a great way to get outdoors and enjoy recreational opportunities in nearby waterways, especially when you add in fun activities like water sports. Whether you enjoy a bit of tubing or wakeboarding or you’re a serious slalom skier, there are few activities more exhilarating than taming the waves with the sun on your face and the wind whipping through your hair.
Of course, like any type of sports, you need to make sure you behave in a safe and responsible manner in order to avoid accident, injury, and illness. You want to make sure everyone on your boat has a great time, and this means observing proper boating safety. Here are a few tips to ensure that your day of boating and water sports goes off without a hitch.
Never Overload Your Boat
When you have a vehicle like a boat, it’s tempting to accommodate every friendly request to join in the fun, but when you overload your boat with family members and friends, not only do you compromise the performance of your watercraft, but you put everyone’s safety at risk. You should know the capacity your boat can handle and always make sure not to overload. If more people want to participate in boating and water sports, simply plan additional trips.
Safety Gear for All
Boating safety requires that you have appropriate safety equipment on board for yourself and all of your guests, including enough life jackets for adults and children. Your boat should also be equipped with a life preserver, an anchor, a radio to signal for help, flares, a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, signal flags, and other essential safety gear.
There’s a chance some of the guests on your boat may not be able to swim, or may be poor swimmers. Whether guests are adept at swimming or not, they should always wear life vests while out on the water. This is basic boating safety 101.
As the owner and operator of a boat, it’s important that you stay alert and pay attention when you’re on the water. This starts with keeping an eye on your guests, especially any children on your boat, and making sure that anyone participating in water sports understands safety rules. Whenever you’re towing someone, you should have a spotter and make sure everyone understands basic hand signals (for speeding, slowing, stopping, etc.).
You also need to remain aware of your surroundings, including the environment and other boaters. It’s important to keep a safe distance from the shoreline and to keep an eye on your depth gauge. You should also know rules for interacting with other boaters and maintain a safe distance when passing on waterways, for the safety of all. Don’t forget to use signal flags to alert other boaters that you’re towing.
Account for Weather Conditions
Boats are open to the elements, so you should always check weather reports before going out on the water to ensure you’re properly prepared. If stormy weather is in the forecast, be ready to cancel your excursion or to turn back at a moment’s notice. You should also be aware of the water temperature. If it’s too cold, guests may need to wear wetsuits or limit their time in the water to avoid issues like exposure and hypothermia.
Even warm, sunny weather can be dangerous if you’re not prepared. Make sure everyone lathers up with sunblock and wears protective eyewear, for starters, since the glare of the water can enhance the effects of the sun, causing sunburn or photokeratitis (a condition by which the cornea becomes inflamed from overexposure to sunlight, even when reflected off water). You should also bring plenty of drinking water and encourage guests to stay hydrated throughout the day.
There are several reasons why alcohol and boating/water sports don’t mix. For one thing, consumption of alcohol can cause dehydration, which is not ideal on sunny days when it’s easy to become dehydrated anyway. In addition, it can lead to accidents, injuries, and illness.
Not only could alcohol impair physical performance and reaction time, which could prove extremely hazardous when participating in water sports, but people could simply slip and fall on board, or worse, fall overboard while the boat is in motion. There’s a much higher risk of falls, drowning, and other common accidents when guests on your boat are imbibing. It should go without saying that you, as the driver, should absolutely avoid alcohol.
Stay Up-to-Date with Maintenance
You can’t always predict when your boat might have problems, but with regular cleanings and visits to your mechanic and marine battery guy, you have the best chance to enjoy a problem-free day on your favorite waterway.