National Safe Boating Week! This week was all about dedicating yourself to practicing safe boating protocols for the season. The National Weather Service partnered with the National Safe Boating Council (an NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador) to help promote safe boating. NWS staff, TV meteorologists, and many others even wear their life jackets to work to emphasize how important it is to wear a life jacket when you're on the water.
Here’s a closer look at National Safe Boating Week and some actions you can take to ensure you’re staying safe on the water all season long.
Saturday, May 22nd - Safe Boating Course and Vessel Safety Check
There are several Coast Guard or Power Squadron-certified boating safety courses offered throughout the country. They are useful for all types of recreational boating.
It’s also important to do a vessel safety check. Keeping your boat in good condition with proper, consistent maintenance practices will preserve the long-term value of your watercraft and support safety on the water.
» MORE: Boat Maintenance Tips
- Find a boating safety class with a qualified volunteer organization, sponsored by the USCG or the U.S. Power Squadron
- Prep your watercraft for a spring or summer launch
Sunday, May 23rd - Essential Gear
All boats are required to have certain equipment and gear aboard. Check below to see the safety requirements put forth by the USCG for recreational vessels.
- Personal Flotation Devices
- Fire Extinguishers
- Visual Distress Signals
- Sound Producing Devices
- Backfire Flame Arrestors
- Pollution Awareness
- Marine Sanitation Device
- Navigation Devices
- Make sure you have U.S. Coast Guard approved, marine-type equipment and all items are in proper working condition
» MORE: Boating Safety Tips
Monday, May 24th - Wear Your Life Jackets
Craft control, sufficient knowledge of your surroundings, and wearing a life jacket are all simple and easy ways to practice safe boating on the water. A life jacket, in particular, is a major factor when it comes to protecting yourself and your passengers on board. Countless boaters' lives have been saved by life jackets.
A common misconception is that only passengers under the age of 12 should wear a life jacket . However, age and skill level should not play a role in whether someone wears a life jacket.
Even if you consider yourself a great swimmer, you should still be wearing a life jacket at all times. Conditions like the tide, current, weather, and waves are not guaranteed to remain steady. They are subject to change at any moment. A life jacket should be readily available and worn by every single passenger on board.
Here are the requirements:
- Watercraft less than 16’ must have one Type I, II, III, or V per person
- Watercraft bigger than 16’ must have one Type I, II, III, or V per person and one Type IV throw-able device
- Check to make sure your life jacket is in good condition and there are enough on board for all your passengers.
» MORE: Life Jacket Guide
Tuesday, May 25th - Boating Under the Influence
Boating under the influence is just as - if not more - dangerous as drinking and driving. Did you know a boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than an automobile driver? The marine environment of motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, and wind accelerates impairment. These stressors cause fatigue, which in turn impair a boat operator's coordination, judgment, and reaction time. The effects of alcohol can be extremely dangerous on the water, increasing the likelihood of accidents.
Every boater should understand the risks of boating under the influence (BUI) of alcohol or drugs. It is illegal to operate watercraft in such conditions in every state. The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits BUI. This law pertains to all boats - from canoes and rowboats to larger vessels. The penalties for BUI can include large fines, revocation of operator privileges, and serious jail terms.
- Always have a designated driver aboard your craft
- Take along a variety of cold drinks, such as sodas, water, or iced tea, instead of alcoholic beverages
- Even without alcohol use, always limit your trip to a reasonable time to avoid fatigue. Remember - it's common to become tired more quickly on the water.
- If you want to make alcohol part of your day's entertainment, plan to have a party ashore at the dock, in a picnic area, at a boating club, or in your backyard.
- If you dock somewhere for lunch or dinner and drink alcohol with your meal, wait a reasonable time before operating your boat.
- Having no alcohol while aboard is the safest way to enjoy the water. Intoxicated passengers are at risk of injury and falling overboard.
- Spread the word on the dangers of BUI. Many recreational boaters forget that a boat is a vehicle - and that safe operation is a legal and personal responsibility.
Wednesday, May 26th - Weather
Watching the weather and checking the marine forecasts will help to inform boaters of possible adverse conditions. Forecasts will tell you wind speed and direction, wave heights and period, and shore roughness. Most VHF radios have a weather station that continuously broadcasts conditions and advice.
» MORE: Marine VHF Radio Overview
- Before heading out on the water, you should always consult the latest marine forecast. Take a few minutes today to familiarize yourself with the information provided in a marine forecast.
Thursday, May 27th - Environmental Factors
Perilous conditions on the water, including monstrous winds and waves, lightning, waterspouts, and heavy rain can form suddenly. Be prepared for any scenario that can arise and have a plan for what to do in these various situations.
- Research the conditions your specific craft can handle and what environmental factors are common in your area
- Map out where the safe harbors along your route are located
- Develop a clear plan in case a dangerous situation arises
Friday, May 28th - Situational Awareness
Have a keen sense of the events and conditions happening around you, and apply that awareness to the situation.
- Make sure you’re paying attention to all things going on around you.
- An increasing number of devices is making us less observant and more distracted. Make the effort to put the devices away and focus on the water.