When you own a boat, whether you use it for fishing, sailing, cruising or water sports, boating. From your very first boating adventure, you may start feeling that everything truly is better while on the water. Suddenly, seaside destinations look prettier, marinas become your natural habitat, sunrises take your breath away, and sunsets become more mesmerizing. That’s the moment you start appreciating the beauty of nature and wildlife - when you want to share unforgettable moments with the ones you love most - and are thrilled to meet new boat lovers with whom you can share your passion and experiences and learn from.
While boating is all this and much more, the increasing interest in recreational boating in the last few years has led to a rise in the number of boat accidents in the U.S. According to the U.S. Coast Guard 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics Report published in June 2021, from 2019 to 2020, there were a total of 767 boating fatalities nationwide and 3,191 non-fatal injured victims (an increase of 25.1% and 24.7% respectively, compared to 2019). Moreover, boating activities and boat sales skyrocketed during the pandemic. Other related services that have flourished in the meanwhile include insurance policies, claims, and calls for towing assistance, only to name a few.
Unfortunately, more boating time on the water also meant more accidents, injuries, and even deaths (there was a greater risk of deaths, injuries, and accidents with alcohol as the leading factor for over 100 deaths in 2020, 18% of all fatalities). The top 5 accident-contributing factors are inexperience, improper lookout, inattention, too much speed, and mechanical problems, whereas in 75% of fatal boating accidents, in which the cause of death was properly identified, drowning was the leading cause, with 86% of boaters not wearing a life jacket. Besides, 77% of deaths were of boaters who had not received any boating safety instructions, whilst the most involved vessels in reported accidents were personal boats, open boats, and cabin motorboats. Let’s keep in mind that according to statistics, motorboats (50%), kayaks (15%), and pontoons (9%) were the vessels used that registered higher death rates.
Even though boat accidents happen year-round, increasingly during the Summer months, the good news is that boaters can prevent most of these occurrences by learning and adopting boating safety best practices and by using their common sense.
The Importance of Boat Responsibility While on the Water
While recreational boating experiences can be extremely enjoyable and fun characterized by moments with family and friends on board, beautiful outdoor explorations, endless water sport activities, and fishing, being a boater also requires being prudent on the water to ensure everyone’s safety is not compromised. Also, to keep your boat in proper conditions in order to be operated as well as you and all passengers to keep the environment clean and safe for all boaters and water lovers.
Just like texting while driving has become a major cause of road fatalities, texting while boating isn’t different. It can even be more dangerous and lead to more fatal accidents since maritime traffic is more unpredictable and can come from all directions. Boat operators are responsible for the safety of passengers on board; therefore, they should maintain and operate their vessels accordingly.
Adopting good practices, as well as being prudent and thoughtful will make you feel more relaxed and enjoy boating even more, without any worries. We have put out together a list of 12 easy tips on how to improve onboard safety for making the most out of your boating hours and having an amazing boating experience.
12 Easy Tips to Improve Your Boating Safety
In the U.S., for instance, the U.S. Coast Guard provides boating courses with instruction to boaters at all levels. Alternatively, many other organizations offer a range of specific boating safety courses, most of them for free.
A Vessel Safety Check (VSC) is an important procedure that is usually free and comes with no consequences if the boat does not comply with applicable regulation. Its main objective is to certify boating as a safe activity for everyone on the water.
YoYou should bring life jackets on board for every single passenger of your vessel. As there are many types of life jackets on the market, make sure the ones you bring onboard meet passengers´ characteristics such as their height, weight, and the on-water activities you want to carry out. Last but not least important, educate everyone onboard on the importance of using them properly.
As alcohol tends to affect vision, balance, judgment, and coordination, both boat operators and passengers should avoid drinking any kind of alcoholic drinks when swimming or boating since one can fall into the water, swim into a propeller, or even cause the boat to capsize. Besides, boating can augment the effects of alcohol due to weather conditions such as wind, wave motion, and of course, the sun. On the other hand, being drunk increases the probability of getting a cold water shock.
You should never load your vessel beyond a certain limit to make sure you and your passengers are safe and sound while on the water since beyond a certain amount of weight, boats become unstable and can capsize. For this reason, it is always a good idea to stay below your boat’s max weight capacity.
Besides obeying the required speed limits, boat operators should navigate at safe speeds in congested waters. Since there are areas where vessels are more likely to collide with other vessels if they are not conscious enough, ensure that you follow the recommended navigational practices. This does not mean that navigating in the open sea is an easier task; it is just not as dangerous as congested waters. Thus, it is critical that boat operators take all the necessary precautions to avoid any type of accident.
Having a passenger help the boat operator as a lookout is highly recommended, especially when you are boating with many people. This person will play a fundamental role assisting you in tasks such as staying alert for oncoming traffic and paying attention to all radio communications and swimmers that you might encounter on the water. Therefore, using sight and hearing at all times is important so that you can navigate safely.
Checking the short-term and long-term weather predictions should be a must before any boat ride since you should always consider these weather forecasts before any boat trip. Depending on each situation, you will be able to determine the key items or supplies you need to take with you to keep you safe while boating.
By keeping a safe distance from people, vessels, structures, and shoreline, you can avoid boat collisions, injuring the passengers on board, other people, or even damaging property. When taking precautions, remember to consider other important factors such as the weather, speed, visibility, and other navigation obstacles you may encounter during your boat trip.
Often children’s behavior can be unpredictable and irrational. For this reason, never leave children, especially young children, unattended, nor trust a child’s life to another child. Besides, make sure they wear appropriate life jackets and understand the dangers of being irresponsible while boating so that they always keep you informed anytime they are near the water.
Carry boating accessories on board can be extremely useful, in case incidents arise. While preparing your next boat trip make sure to include basic objects such as a flashlight, a first aid kit, ropes, lights, pyrotechnic red flares and orange distress flags, a cell phone preferably stored in a waterproof plastic container should you need to call for assistance, as well as equip your vessel with fire extinguishers.
Going for a boat trip can be an extremely enjoyable experience out in nature, either you use your vessel to go fishing, socialize, day cruising, or other recreational activities. To ensure your time on a boat is quality time, always play safe, use your common sense, and be prepared for any type of event.
Keep in mind that most incidents and collisions can be prevented if boat operators are properly informed, take all necessary measures, and always comply with the best boating safety practices. Furthermore, that they are aware of potential dangers and respect other boaters, swimmers, water sources, and the environment.
At Navnit Marine, your boating safety is our top priority. To ensure you have thoroughly retained and checked the most crucial boating information, do not forget to download, print, and keep this checklist at hand before you go boating next time. Remember that, when well-applied, these great tips will significantly reduce the risk of accidents you and your passengers may experience, make your time on the water memorable, and help you become a better boater.
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