boat safety tipsWith summer right around the corner, many people are looking forward to spending time boating. Before you take your boat out on the water, it is important to take the time to review some safety tips.

Your boat should have several safety items, including personal flotation devices, a horn, navigation lights, a flashlight and batteries, distress signals, a toolbox, a first aid kit, enough fuel for your trip, a fire extinguisher, the boat’s documentation, and the chart for the area where you are going.

The U.S. Coast Guard offers free vessel safety checks. A specialist can inspect your boat and safety equipment and make helpful tips and recommendations. The Coast Guard also offers virtual online safety checks.

At least two people on board should be familiar with all aspects of the boat’s handling, operations, and safety. The second person will be able to get the boat safely back to shore if the primary navigator becomes injured or incapacitated.

All boaters should be familiar with basic safety rules. Some states require validated completion of at least one boating safety course. You can take a course offered by a local community organization or online.

Everyone who is a passenger on a boat should know how to swim. If you don’t, enroll in a class offered by the American Red Cross or another organization in your community.

Always let someone else know your float plan. This should include where you are going, how long you will be gone, the names and phone numbers of everyone on board, the boat type and registration information, and the type of communication and signal equipment on board.

Always check local weather conditions before you set out on the water. If you notice darkening clouds, changing winds, or a sudden drop in temperature, head back to shore.

Everyone on board should wear a life jacket at all times.

Avoid drinking while boating. Drinking doubles the likelihood of being involved in a boating accident, and sun and wind can exacerbate the effects of alcohol.

Use your common sense. Always operate the boat at a safe speed, avoid other vessels and watercraft, and respect buoys and other navigational aids.