Boating safely means having the right equipment on board for all emergencies, big and small. Make sure to bring or keep these items on the boat at all times:
- Boating First Aid - Maintain a first aid kit stocked with basic supplies (gauze, bandages, alcohol cleaning pads, aspirin, etc.).
- Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) - The U.S. Coast Guard and/or state laws require you to have at least one approved PFD (also called life jackets and life vests) for each passenger when you are in a boat. Some types of vessels are also required to carry a cushion or ring that can be thrown to a person in the water.
- Signaling Devices - Keep day and nighttime signaling devices on your boat including a sound maker,horn or whistle, distress flag, flares and/or a fog system.
- Fire Extinguisher - Hopefully you'll never need it, but you must have a fire extinguisher with you while you're on the water.
- Boat Anchor - To keep from running aground in bad weather or as a result of engine failure, every boat needs an adequate anchor.
- Tow Ropes & Dock Lines - Make sure you have an extra tow rope in case you or another boater is stranded and needs a lift. Dock lines also come in handy when you need to tie up to someone's pier.
- Marine VHF Radio & Cell Phone - Keep a VHF radio on your boat at all times and bring your cell phone along too.
Your water fun depends on you, your equipment and other people who, like yourself, enjoy spending leisure time on, in or near the water. Let's take a look at your responsibilities:
- Make sure the boat is in top operating condition and that there are no tripping hazards. The boat should be free of fire hazards and have clean bilges.
- Be weather-wise. Always check local weather conditions before departure.
- Carry safety equipment required by law on board, maintained in good condition, and know how to properly use these devices.
- Make sure your family and friends stay safe by assigning and fitting each person on board with a life jacket.
- File a float plan with a relative or friend.
- Have a complete knowledge of the operation and handling characteristics of your boat.
- Know your position and where you are going.
- Maintain a safe speed at all times to avoid collision.
- Keep an eye out for changing weather conditions and act accordingly.
- Know and practice the rules of the road (Navigational Rules).
- Know and obey federal and state regulations and waterway markers.
- Maintain a clear, unobstructed view forward at all times."Scan" the water and avoid "tunnel" vision. Most boating collisions are caused by inattention.
- Remember, you are the key to water safety!
It is important to be prepared if an emergency occurs while you are out on the water.
- Stay calm.
- Ensure everyone on board is wearing their life jacket.
- Survey the situation so that you can radio for help. Know the name and location of your boat, how many people are on board, the type of emergency, and if anyone is wounded.
- Call 911 from your cell phone or radio for help.
If the boat has a ship to shore radio:
- Tune it to channel 16 (United States Coast Guard)
- Clearly say "MAYDAY" three times for life threatening emergencies
- Or say "SECURITE" (pronounced: secure-i-tay) for safety emergencies that are not life threatening
- Give position of vessel by latitude or longitude or by bearing(true or magnetic, state which) and distance to a well-known landmark such as a navigational aid or small island
- Describe the nature of distress (sinking, fire etc.), kind of assistance desired, and number of persons onboard.
In non life-threatening situations, contact these companies for assistance.
- TowBoatUS has 280 ports and more than 500 vessels standing by. Boaters can reach them on VHF frequency 16 by hailing “TowBoatUS” or by calling the BoatUS 24-hour National Dispatch Center at 800-391-4869.
- SeaTow has a large network of U.S Coast Guard licensed captains and support staff ready to assist you 24/7 along the coast and on lakes throughout the country. They can be reached at 800-4-SEATOW.