The Pasco Sheriff’s Office Maritime Operations Unit wants to share some important reminders for safe boating. While we encourage everyone to have fun on the water, being safe while on a boat is imperative. Taking a few easy steps before you head out can help save lives and make your day on the boat that much better.
Before heading out on the water, take a safe boating course and get a vessel safety check. These steps ensure that not only are you prepared for a fun day on the water, but your boat is as well. You should also know how the environment and weather will affect your day out. Check with the local weather service for a forecast and any active alerts and warnings, especially marine warnings. Never try to test your boating mettle against the weather.
Keep in mind how the heat and vessel motion will affect your abilities. Stay hydrated with plenty of water throughout the day, as heat exhaustion and heat stroke can happen quickly, and you may be far from land when it does. Don’t forget to apply and re-apply sunscreen as needed too.
When it comes to drinking on a boat, paddle board, kayak, or any watercraft, ensure you have a designated driver. The motion of the water affects impairment differently than drinking on land, so one drink can feel like three on a boat. Boating While Intoxicated accounts for over a third of all recreational boating fatalities and is easily preventable. Just like driving a car while intoxicated, federal law prohibits boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Before you head out for a day of fun, take time to put together a float plan and leave it with someone on land. A float plan should include where you’re going, who is with you, what time you’re leaving and plan to return and where you’re putting your watercraft in. Leave this information with a family member, friend, neighbor, or other trusted person on land so they can be on the lookout for your return and can alert authorities when you don’t. It’s also helpful to include information about your watercraft such as color, length, registration number and type, as well as information on the vehicle you used to take your watercraft to the boat ramp.
Most importantly, don’t forget to ensure that every person, regardless of age or swimming abilities, has a functioning life jacket on board and that it can be easily accessed in an emergency. Boat emergencies can happen in a split second and rescue crews may require some time to find you, so having a life jacket readily available is vital to safe boating. Those who are not strong swimmers should wear a life jacket at all times while on the water. Even the strongest swimmers can tire quickly when stressed, so life jackets can be real lifesavers!
Lastly, before you head out for the day, ensure you have the essentials, which, once again, include:
– Life jackets for everyone on board
– Visual distress signals, such as flares
– Sound producing devices, like whistles
– A locator device, such as an EPIRB
– A fire extinguisher
– Navigation lights, especially at night
– Plenty of drinkable water to stay hydrated
– Correct and up-to-date permits, decals and registrations
– A cell phone that’s fully charged
– Filing a float plan before heading out
Pasco Sheriff’s Office
“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” – Charles Spurgeon