The arrival of warm weather means millions of Americans will be heading out in their boats, so experts are offering a few safety reminders.
Launch your watercraft in designated areas, travel only in areas open to your type of craft, operate it at a safe speed and carry a Coast Guard-approved life vest for each person on board, says the nonprofit group Tread Lightly.
Obey all signs and respect barriers, including speed limits, no-wake zones and underwater obstructions. Always try to go boating with a partner, and never mix boating with alcohol or drugs.
Always designate a person to watch for other boaters, objects and swimmers. Never jump a wake. Instead, cross at low speed and keep an eye out for skiers and towables, Tread Lightly advises.
If you use a trailer, make sure it has no problems, that the lights work, and that your boat is secure on the trailer. Be sure to balance your trailer load, including items stowed inside the boat.
When planning a longer cruise, take these precautions, Tread Lightly advises:
- Make sure your boat is mechanically sound.
- Check the weather forecast for your destination and bring the appropriate clothing, equipment and supplies.
- Be sure you have enough fuel for the entire trip.
- Carry a fire extinguisher, warning flares and other emergency items.
- Have a Global Positioning System (GPS), and know how to use it.
It’s also important to know distress signals and warning symbols, get charts of your destination, always tell someone about your travel plans and file a float plan.
The U.S. Coast Guard has more about boating safety.