|Stay Safe on the Water|
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Operating a boat can be fun and exciting, but it has risks. Here are a few suggestions that will help keep you safe while you’re out enjoying your boat or personal watercraft.
Listen to local and national weather reports before leaving shore and stay alert for signs of bad weather while you’re boating. A shift in the wind, lightning or choppy water can mean that a storm is nearby. Listen to a portable weather radio while you’re out on the water. If a Small Craft Advisory is announced, get your boat to shore as quickly as possible. Because water conducts electricity, it’s important to get off the water quickly at the ﬁrst sign of lightning.
Bring any extra gear you may need in the event of an emergency. A ﬂashlight, extra batteries, extra clothing and blankets, maps, ﬂares and a ﬁrst-aid kit are all good items to bring along. And don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses. As the sun’s rays reﬂect off the water, glare and sunburn are highly possible.
Every time you go boating, be sure to carry basic safety equipment. Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD). And have one for each person on board. A PFD must ﬁt well and be in good condition to meet Coast Guard requirements. You should also make sure that you have a throwable personal ﬂotation device in the event that someone falls overboard. Other important safety gear include a tow line, jumper cables, an extra paddle or oar, a ﬁre extinguisher, something to use for bailing out water in the event that your vessel takes some in, and audible and visual distress signaling devices such as a whistle, an air horn, an orange smoke device and ﬂares.
Have a Float Plan
Anytime you go out in a boat it is a good idea to leave information regarding your travel plans with a responsible person that is not traveling with you. Details about where you are going, when you are leaving and when you plan to return will be important in the event that your boat is delayed due to weather conditions, mechanical problems or another emergency, and help needs to reach you.
Know the Rules
Be sure to educate yourself about boating laws and rules. You are responsible for the safety of those on board your boat, and other boaters that share the water. You must know and obey the laws. You should also educate yourself about distress signals and navigational lights and signals.
Be Safe Fueling
Fill portable fuel tanks on the dock. When you are fueling your boat, do not smoke, close all hatches and be sure to turn off engines and any electrical appliances or equipment. After fueling, open all hatches to ventilate the vessel, then run the blower for at least four minutes and then check the bilges for vapors before starting your engine. If you smell fumes, wait until all traces are eliminated to start your engine.
Surviving Cold Water
Hypothermia can kill. Wearing a PFD can help reduce distress caused by sudden immersion in cold water. If you must enter the water, button up any clothing you can, put on your PFD, try to cover your head and enter the water slowly. If your boat capsizes, it will likely ﬂoat on or just below the surface of the water. Try to get as much of your body out of the water as possible by climbing onto the boat. DO NOT discard clothing; it will help trap heat. Draw your knees up to lessen the escape of heat. If there are several people in the water, huddle together to help each other stay warm.
Alcohol, drugs, medications and fatigue can all impair your ability to reason and make sound judgments. Up to half of all boating accidents involve alcohol, and a person under the inﬂuence is up to 10 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than one who has not been drinking. Combining the effects of alcohol and cold water can also speed the onset of hypothermia, causing even good swimmers to drown. DO NOT drink, take any medication that might impair your judgment, or do drugs and then operate your boat.
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