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- Enroll in a boater education class
- Develop a float plan
- Watch the weather
- Prepare for a boat fire
- Always wear a life jacket
- Avoid alcohol
- Be especially careful on personal watercrafts
- In Florida, children younger than age 6 must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket while underway
- Don’t overload your boat
- Operate at a safe speed
- Always have a passenger serve as a lookout in addition to the operator
- Watch out for low water areas or submerged objects
Develop a float plan
Give a responsible person details about where you will be and how long you will be gone. This is important in case your boat is delayed because of an emergency, becomes lost, or encounters other problems. Make sure they have a complete description of the vessel and other information that will make identification easier.
Watch the weather
Check weather warnings and forecasts before leaving shore and while at sea. Remain watchful for signs of bad weather and listen to weather radio broadcasts on your VHF radio. According to the NSBC, usually when you see dark, fast moving clouds headed your way, it’s too late to head for a safe location if you are out in the open water. Having knowledge of the larger weather picture and knowing exactly what to do when these sudden storms appear could help you have a safer journey.
Prepare for a boat fire
Most boat fires can be put out rapidly if you act immediately. Having a fully charged fire extinguisher on hand is vital. Take the time to make sure that you and those who boat with you regularly know and understand exactly how to use the fire extinguisher. To prevent boat fires take the following precautions: clean bilges often and maintain proper gear stowage; make sure short-tie cables are properly connected; place oily rags in covered trash cans or dispose of them on shore; and store propane fuel for stoves in a secure area. Contact your local fire department for further fire prevention measures.
Always wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or life jacket
- Most boating fatality victims were found (recovered) NOT wearing a PFD.
- Always carry extra PFD’s in both adult and child sizes.
- In Florida, children younger than 6 years old must wear a PFD while underway unless the boat is larger than 26 feet long.
- The probability of being killed in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved.
- Operating a boat under the influence is just as dangerous as driving a car after you’ve been drinking.
- Boating while intoxicated (BWI) is strictly enforced and carries penalties similar to driving while intoxicated penalties, including possible Driver’s License suspension.
Enroll in a boater education course — regardless of age
- Anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 must have a Boating Safety Education ID Card to legally operate a vessel with a motor of 10 horsepower or greater (including PWCs), in Florida .
- It’s a good idea for the whole family to enroll in a boater education course.
- A majority (52%) vessels involved in boating accidents are operated by persons 26- 50 years of age.
Be especially careful on personal watercraft (PWC)
- PWC operators and passengers must wear a life jacket.
- Before you borrow or rent a PWC, take the time to learn how to operate the vessel and the rules of the waterway.
- Maintain a safe distance from other PWC’s, vessels, persons, shore, or stationary platform or other object unless operating at headway (idle) speed.
Operate at a safe speed
- Citations may be issued for excessive speed or reckless operation. Use common sense, and operate at a safe speed at all times — especially in crowded areas.
- Excessive speed is a rate of speed greater than is reasonable or prudent without regard for conditions and hazards or greater than will permit a person to bring the boat to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.
Pack a first aid kit
Your kit can prove invaluable if you or a member of your group is injured. Pack antiseptics for cuts and scrapes, tweezers, insect repellent, pain relievers, and sunscreen.
Bring emergency supplies
For long boating trips, in addition to a first aid kit, it is prudent to bring a map, compass, flashlight, knife, waterproof fire starter, personal shelter, whistle, warm clothing, high energy food, and water.