Boating is a favorite summer past time. On the Gulf Coast, we enjoy fishing, water skiing, sailing, sight seeing, and many other activities. Following good safety rules ensures that any activity will be a safe and pleasurable experience. Here are four tips for keeping safe on the water. This list is not exhaustive. Always follow Federal, State, and Local rules and regulations and use common sense.
- Track the Weather – Always check weather forecasts. Especially look at the Marine Forecast. Inland weather may look clear while the weather on the water has a chance of getting bad. Weather can change quickly and without warning. Weather is in the top ten contributing factors in boating accidents.
- Have a Float Plan – Make sure that a friend, family member, or local marina knows what you are doing and where you are going. A reliable person should be able to contact the Coast Guard or other rescue agencies if you do not return or check in per your plan. In your float plan include: the name, address, and phone number of the trip leader; names and phone numbers of all passengers; boat type and registration information; trip itinerary; and types of communication and signal equipment such as EPIRB or PLB.
- Proper Use of Life Jackets – Life jackets should fit properly. A jacket that is too large or small can be useless or exacerbate a dangerous situation causing death or more serious injury. Life jackets should be accessible and available to use. There should be at least one life jacket for each person on the vessel. State laws require that children wear life jackets based upon age and size or operation of the vessel. In Florida, children under 6 years of age must wear a life jacket on any vessel under 26 feet in length while the boat is underway. Laws may require life jackets for older children or adults depending on the type of boating activity.
- Have Proper Safety Equipment. Each boat must have specific, functioning safety equipment on board depending on the type and length of the vessel. Examples of such equipment are horns, whistles, flares, mirrors, fire extinguishers, and other items. Know the state and Coast Guard regulations for your vessel. Make sure you have proper equipment on board.