This post was most recently updated on January 27th, 2023
A day on the water should be relaxing for you, your family and your friends. Knowing how to safely leave the dock, navigate the waters, enjoy aquatic activities and then return happy after a successful day on the water takes education and practice. Here are some tips on how to stay safe on your boat from the moment you step on the dock until you are back on land.
What to do Before You Leave the Dock
Before you begin your day on the water, perform a safety check of all necessary items. Make sure all of your boaters have life jackets on correctly and know where the fire extinguisher and life rings are. Be sure to secure all ropes when unattached from the mooring cleats so they will not be a safety hazard. Check your fuel and battery levels, flares and emergency kits as well as water, sunscreen and food supplies. Other variables depend on the type of boat you have, how long your trip will be and the purpose of your voyage. The important factor is to check that everything is in working order before you leave the dock so you can repair anything that needs attention before you begin.
How to Stay Safe on the Water
Once you are on the water, follow all the laws of the waterway you are on for your safety and the safety of other boaters, too. The person in charge of driving the boat should not be drinking so that his or her judgment will not be impaired. You also need to keep an eye on the weather to be able to react to sudden changes that require swift action. Alcohol consumption decreases the ability to respond in a timely, proactive manner to the needs of your passengers and your boat.
What to do in Case of an Emergency
If a person gets hurt while on your boat, use your first aid kit to care for the injury until you get back to the dock.
You may need to radio or phone and vhf antenna marine for help and use flares or sound devices if the injuries are extreme or if there is damage to the vessel. Make sure that more than one person knows how to drive or sail the boat so that if the captain is incapacitated, then someone else can take over. The most important factor is to stay calm and address the emergency immediately so the situation does not escalate and no further damage is done.
How to Show Courtesy for Other Boaters
Your day out on the water is meant to be fun and keeping safety as a priority will make sure it is enjoyable for everyone. There are many aquatic activities you may be partaking in, such as fishing, skiing, tubing or wakeboarding, and during all of these you need to leave enough distance between you and the other boats on the water to function without collision. Keeping at least 100 feet between you and other vessels will show respect for their safety and courtesy in sharing the waterway. Obeying the rules is just the beginning of showing courtesy because sometimes circumstances occur that call for going beyond normal decency, such as if a person breaks down on the water and needs your help, so it is important to stay aware of what the other vessels around you are doing.
What to do to Finish Well
At the end of your time on the water, check to make sure everything on the boat is turned off, stowed away and replaced where it should be for the next trip. Secure it tightly to the cleats and put all the life preservers where they can be easily accessed if left on board. Restock any first aid materials or batteries used. Cleaning up food and water waste will help your next ride begin on a fresh note instead of wishing someone had thrown out the half-eaten tuna fish sandwich.
Following basic water safety precautions is easy to do by wearing a life jacket, bringing emergency items and kits, following the laws and being kind to other boaters. Beginning and ending the trip with dock safety and completing checklists will help make every adventure on the water a fun and safe experience for all.