Boating is a fun pastime for Florida residents, but it’s important to stay safe during your time out on the water. No matter how much experience you have, it’s always a good idea to have everyone review these 9 basic boating safety rules before departing.
1. Always Use Common Sense
It may seem obvious, but it’s important to use common sense when you’re out on the boat. Always operate at a safe speed, especially if the area is crowded. Steer clear of large watercraft and stay alert at all times. Always be mindful and respectful of buoys and any other navigational aids that have been put in place for your own safety.
2. Check the Weather
While there’s no way to know for sure what the weather will be like, it’s a good idea to check the forecast before you head out. If there’s a chance of rain, take extra precautions and make sure that you’re prepared. If clouds start to darken, winds become rough or you notice a quick drop in temperature, it’s better to play it safe and get off the water as soon as possible.
3. Create and Follow a Checklist
Create a pre-departure checklist and go through it just before you set off. Doing so will ensure that you have all the appropriate gear on board and that everyone is prepared for any possibility while you’re out on the water.
4. Designate Someone as Assistant Captain
It’s always a good idea to have someone else on board who knows how to handle the boat and is familiar with general boating safety. Should the captain become incapacitated in any way, the assistant captain can take over and ensure that the boat is operated properly until you get back to the dock.
5. Make Sure Everyone Has Life Jackets
A large number of drownings occur because boaters simply forgot to wear a life jacket. Make sure that everyone on the boat, yourself included, is wearing a life jacket before you head out on the water.
6. Create a Float Plan
Before you depart, make sure that you share your float plan with someone. This could be a family member or a staff member at your local marina.
Your float plan should include:
- Types of signal and communication equipment on board the vessel
- Boat registration information and type
- Names and phone numbers of all passengers
- The name, address and phone number of the captain
- How long you’ll be gone
- Where you’re going
7. Keep the Trip Alcohol-Free
Alcohol not only impairs your ability to drive a car, but your ability to drive a boat, too. Be safe, and save the alcohol for when you return to shore and have a safe place to stay for the night. The risk of getting into a boating accident doubles when passengers and drivers are drinking. The effects of alcohol can be exacerbated when out in the sun.
8. Learn How to Operate a Boat
Both experienced and beginner boaters should be familiar with basic safety rules and operation of the vessel. Every state has its own requirements for boater education, but some will require boaters to complete a boating safety course. Online classes and classes at local community colleges are available.
9. Learn How to Swim
If should go without saying that you should know how to swim if you’re going to be in or on the water. Classes are available at local health clubs as well as from the American Red Cross.