Where are you going? When are you going to be back? Do you have all your gear? Have a safe trip! Every boater knows the dangers of the water, but we tend to take our safe returns for granted. The age-old mindset of “it’s not going to happen to me”, or “I’m prepared for anything”, tends to set it. The fact is that the majority of us aren’t prepared for unexpected events. This mindset blinds us to what we could do to be safer boaters.
The first thing any boater should have is knowledge of the boating rules of the road. Now I know some are thinking, “What? Boats, roads?” It’s true that most accidents are caused by boaters who do not have the proper knowledge to operate their vessel safely. This fact has brought about the requirement of boating licenses in many states. Licenses are certified by the National Association of State Boating Administration and the Coast Guard. In order to receive a license, a person must take a class, either online or in person, and pass an examination. This test can be found at NASBLA.org
by following the education tab to the NASBLA approved boating safety course database. This database will show the various approved testing centers within your region.
Secondly, make sure your vessel has all the required safety equipment and then some. We all know about PFDs (life jackets), fire extinguishers, and flares, but how many of us have ditch bags or other safety equipment if the boat goes down? Most boaters carry the required PFD’s stowed away in hard to reach spots. Instead of having bulky traditional life jackets, try using inflatable jackets. Not only are they comfortable to wear, but also they’re always on you. Ever think about carrying a handheld radio on top of your fixed mount VHF? If the boat goes down, the handheld radio will give you some sort of communication line while in a life raft or floating in the water. Another great technology is the EPIRB or PLB. This technology sends signals that can be picked up by search and rescue operations, allowing a missing person to be located in an efficient manner. Most importantly, don’t just buy this equipment, place it on the boat, and forget about it. Make sure to do annual or semi-annual checks to make sure all safety equipment is in proper working order. The last thing you want is to happen is to need this equipment in an emergency and find that it doesn’t work properly.
Now that you have your boating license and safety gear, can you finally go boating? Yes, but consider having a vessel safety check completed and have a float plan when you go out. The vessel safety check is a great double check to ensure that you have all the necessary safety equipment. As soon as the check is done, you will get a sticker that says you have been certified for the year. Place this sticker in a highly visible place on your boat. The benefit of this sticker is that if the Coast Guard or local law enforcement see it on your vessel, you are less likely to get stopped during random safety inspections, because they already know you’re in compliance. Now that you’re ready to go on the water, make sure you have a float plan and leave it with someone. This plan is an extra safety precaution. If you do not return when expected, the designated person will know to contact search and rescue teams. In this plan, be sure to include a description of your vessel, who’s on board, and a list of safety equipment, as well as where you’ll be and when. You can give a leeway time for when you’ll be in an area, so that if you can’t check in immediately, there are no false reports.
Now that you have the knowledge to operate your vessel, the necessary safety equipment, and know to take extra precautions, get out there and enjoy the water. Tight lines and smooth seas!
About the Author:
Hookin ‘N’ Bookin Fishing Team is a family team that has a passion for the water. Whether the winds are dead calm or blowing hard, you can find them chasing fish. Based in south Florida, the team is blessed to have both inshore and offshore waters with species ranging from trout, snook, and redfish to dolphin, wahoo, and sailfish. The real thrill, though, begins when kingfish roll into town, because that means it’s tournament time! In 2012, the Hookin ‘N’ Bookin Fishing Team made their debut and quickly found themselves on top of leader boards, placing in 4 of the 7 tournaments in which they participated. During the season, they managed to finish 3rd in small boat, 3rd in lady angler, and 15th overall in SKA division 10, which earned them a slot in the SKA nationals. The team consists of Ryan Rowe (team captain), Robert Rowe (team co-captain/vessel owner), Kathy Rowe (team spectator), Kristy Rowe (lady angler), and Tim Rowe (angler).
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