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The Importance of Boat Safety

Boating can be a fun and fulfilling experience for the entire family provided everything goes the right way. We’re not talking about negotiating boat loans and looking for the best deal. Reviewing safety protocols and checking equipment should be part of the routine for a first-time boat owner or even a seasoned mariner.

Boater Safety Education Requirements in your State

Forty states in the United States and all the provinces in Canada have legal requirements that boat operators attend boater safety education classes before receiving their license. That includes personal watercrafts (PWCs), classified by the US Coast Guard as any motorized aquatic vessel less than sixteen feet long that one person operates.

Boater safety classes include instruction on everything from the boat handling basics to reading the weather. They also focus on obeying all regulations and cooperating with law enforcement personnel who patrol the waters. Boaters should take these classes even if not required. When it comes to boating, there’s always something new to learn.

Five Safety Devices You Need on Your Boat

The integrity of the craft itself should be your number one priority. Taking out a boat that leaks or having an engine that doesn’t function at peak efficiency could be deadly. With a car, you can get out and walk if it breaks down. Malfunctioning boats cause drowning and serious injuries. To avoid those, make sure your boat has the following:

  • Life jackets or PFDs: You can protect passengers and yourself by stocking the boat with life jackets and wearable personable floatation devices, but their presence alone does not guarantee safety. The boat operator’s responsibility is to ensure that everyone on the boat wears these devices.
  • Throwable flotation devices: Boats should have easily throwable floatation devices, such as the water rescue ring. You can also use a flotation cushion. There are several of them available on the market. The main feature of all these devices is that they have a rope or line attached to pull someone back into the boat when they are in distress.
  • Fire extinguishers: Boats under twenty-six feet long require at least one type B-1 fire extinguisher. Twenty-six to forty-footers need two extinguishers. Be sure to constantly review this regulation as fire extinguisher technology is updated frequently. Check your state’s boating laws for more information.
  • Flares and flags: Boats that break down need to be visible to the coast guard and other rescue personnel to find them. Stock your boat with flares for nighttime alerts and flags to signal other craft during daylight hours.
  • Horns and whistles: Blowing a horn or whistle when you’re in distress or signaling your approach could save your life and the lives of other boaters and swimmers. Horns and whistles are one safety feature boat owners can get creative with as any loud sound works.

The Bottom Line

Be prepared before you boat. The critical thing to remember is that safety needs to be a priority before leaving the dock and while you’re out on the water. Stock the boat with life jackets, a throwable flotation device, fire extinguishers, flares, and signal flags. Make sure you have a horn or whistle to signal other boats. Attending to these needs before embarking make your passengers feel safer and ensures that your time as a boat owner is healthy and enjoyable.