Out on the water this Summer? Then boating safety should be a concern. Don’t neglect boat safety for that big catch. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, one of three things usually happens when a good day on the water fishing turns tragic:
- A passenger falls overboard
- A boat capsizes
- A boat collides with another boat or object
Reduce your risk of becoming a statistic by following these boating safety tips before casting your fishing line.
Take a boat safety course it is one of the best ways to prevent accidents while fishing. Courses should be approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, state boating agencies, and local boating clubs all offer safety boating courses. These courses can bring an Angler up to speed quickly on emergency procedures and required safety equipment.
It’s easy to overload small vessels with fishing tackle unintentionally, and an overloaded boat is more likely to capsize, even in relatively calm waters. Know your boat’s limitations and the environment in which you operate. On most mono-hull boats up to 20 feet in length, the manufacturer affixes a plate to the hull of the boat specifying capacity limitations. It notes the maximum horsepower rating and maximum load weight at which the boat can safely operate. If this information is missing, one easy formula for calculating the maximum load for a mono-hull boat is to multiply the boat’s length times its width and divide by 15. Using this formula, a 6-ft. wide, 16-foot boat can carry up to 6 people.
Additionally, small boats require special care in loading passengers and gear. Here are a few important tips anglers should follow:
- Avoid standing in a small boat and take care in changing positions. Both actions raise the center of gravity, which increases the chance of a boat capsizing or a passenger falling overboard.
- When sitting, keep your legs spread and lean against a seat for increased stability.
- When loading, hand your fishing equipment to someone already in the boat.
- Distribute gear and passengers evenly around the boat, by weight. To make sure no one trips, be sure gear is properly stowed.
- When boarding, step gently toward the vessel’s center —never onto the gunnels or seats. Keep one hand on the boat.
Pre-Departure Check List
One of the reasons there are so many fishing-related accidents is that a lot of fishing enthusiasts consider themselves anglers first and boaters later. That attitude can make them complacent, neglecting the basics of boating safety. Practicing safe boating probably won’t improve your chances of reeling in the “Big One,” but it will certainly help ensure that you live to fish another day.
Complete a pre-departure checklist prior to launch to make certain your boat is in good working order and has all the necessary safety equipment on board. File a float plan with the marina or with a friend or family member, letting others know where you’ll be boating and when you expect to return. Be sure to wear a life jacket always. And be sure to check the weather report and waterway conditions, bearing in mind that weather conditions can change quickly.
Besides having life jackets for each person on board, here are other items anglers should keep on hand, depending on the size of their boat.
- Throwable Type IV flotation device with line
- First Aid Kit
- Blanket and a dry change of clothes stored in a waterproof bag
- VHF marine radio
- U.S. Coast Guard-approved marine fire extinguisher
- U.S. Coast Guard-approved visual distress signals
- Boarding ladder
- Chart of the local area
If fishing in unfamiliar waters, research the area in advance. Ask about water and weather conditions and the number of boats you’ll encounter. Watch your speed.
Don’t Boat & Drink
Every boater needs to understand the risks of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI). Per U.S. Coast Guard data:
- A boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver, drink for drink?
- The penalties for BUI can include large fines, revocation of operator privileges and serious jail terms?
- The use of alcohol is involved in about a third of recreational boating fatalities?
It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits BUI. This law pertains to ALL boats from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships. Don’t drink alcohol, or take any drugs – even over-the-counter medications - that induce drowsiness and impair judgment.
Be safe on the water!