Fourth of July has come and gone, which may mean you were out on a friend’s boat over the past weekend. Now, imagine if something would’ve happened on that boat and you had to find supplies or even drive the boat back to shore … could you do it? It’s always good to be prepared, so here’s some basic information on boat safety and etiquette.
Short Safety Checklist
Now whether you’re on a small lake or a bigger body of water, it’s important to know where the following items are located in case of an emergency. This list will also cover you if your boat is stopped for an inspection.
- Life jackets: Adults don’t need to wear life jackets on the boat, but they should know where to find them in case of an emergency. Children under 6 must have a properly-fitting life jacket on at all times.
- Throwable: A throwable or ring life preserver is also needed in case someone goes overboard.
- Fire extinguisher: Fire extinguishers come with dates on them to ensure the pressure is correct; double check this and make sure your fire extinguisher is not expired.
- Air horn/whistle: You need one of these to signal other boats in case there is an emergency.
As a guest on the boat, it’s important to know where these items are because you never know what can happen out on the water.
Beer and Boating
Yes, kicking back with a beer on a hot summer day on the water can be very relaxing, but it’s important to keep it under control. More than half of boating-related accidents happen because alcohol is involved, according to the Boating Safety Resource Center. Boating may be one of the few activities where an open container is permitted in a vehicle, but there are still many dangers. Just because you can drink in a boat does not mean you can drive a boat drunk. In most states, the law is the same on the water as it is on the highway. For instance, in Michigan, there’s a limit of .08 blood alcohol content.
That being said, it’s extremely important for the driver to be aware and to avoid drinking too much, but it’s also on the guests to manage their drinking as well. Drinking can disorient people, which can be deadly if they fall overboard.
Boating is meant to be relaxing and fun. If you’re given the opportunity to drive a boat, here are a few rules for the water.
- You should travel counter-clockwise around a lake.
- When driving a boat, you’re supposed to remain 100 feet away from other vessels and 200 feet away from non-motor-powered crafts and diver buoys.
- Boats to the right (star port) side of your boat have the right of way. At night you will see a red or green light, depending on which side of the boat you are approaching.
- No one should be standing or sitting on the edges of the boat while it is moving.
- Follow the individual rules of the lake you are on and remain courteous to others enjoying the lake.
Are you a skipper or a frequent boat guest? If so, feel free to leave a comment below and share some safety tips of your own.