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Drew: All hands-on deck – boating safety

By Samuetta Hill Drew

Another activity many enjoy during the dog days of summer is boating. Sailing on the lake, gulf or ocean can be a fun recreational activity, but staying safe on the water is important. In 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 4,291 boating incidents which resulted in 658 fatalities, 2,629 injuries and approximately $46 million in property damage. So, whether it’s riding on a motorized or non-motorized boat, following essential safety boating rules are important.
The first rule in boating safety is always wear a life jacket when on the water in a motorized or non-motorized boat. The U.S. Coast Guard reported that 76 percent of boating deaths in 2017 were due to drowning, and 84 percent of the victims were not wearing a life jacket. Wearing the right size life jacket which is properly fitted to your size and weight is an additional safety measure.
The rules about wearing a life jacket differ from state to state, but the National Safe Boating Council encourages boaters to wear life jackets any time they’re boating. Become knowledgeable with your state’s boating laws before venturing out on the water. Also educate yourself by taking a boating course. These are wonderful safety precautions.
• Before going out on your boat always take the time to check your equipment to ensure it’s in proper working order. Note, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will conduct a free vessel safety check. Conduct a pre-departure checklist to make sure you have all needed items such as tool kit, first-aid kit, etc. Before leaving, always file a float plan with someone you trust, such as a friend or family member.
• Vital to everyone’s safety it’s important that you don’t ever drink and drive a boat. Alcohol severely diminishes one’s ability in many different capacities which places all passengers at risk. It impacts judgment, vision, balance and coordination. It takes longer for you to receive information from your eyes, ears, and other senses and even more time to react. It reduces your night vision.
• Alcohol also reduces one’s inhibitions, often causing people to try stunts or other dangerous situations. This is a concern because you don’t want anyone on your boat to fall overboard for any reason. This is why following the “three points of contact” rule is good advice for all passengers. This simply means when anyone is on board a boat, they should always strive to have three points of contact with the boat. An example of this is having both feet planted on the floor and holding on with at least one hand. If the boat is moving, hold on with both hands to something firm such as a grab rail.
Keeping an Eye on Safety while boating requires all parties on board to use good sound judgment. Exercising sound judgment while on the water is very important because in a split-second events can change, like weather conditions.