Author: Nathan Heinicke-Peart

When you decide to go for a sail, race a boat, or go kayaking, tubing, or canoeing, the open-water is a great way to enjoy some relaxation, ease your stress levels, and have some recreation.  On the water, time seems to slow down and cares melt away.

At the same time, boating holds its share of challenges and risks. The Coast Guard reported almost 4,500 boating accidents in 2016, with over 700 fatalities and almost 3,000 injuries.In most cases, boaters cannot see what is below the surface of the water, so the depth of the water is unknown. Currents may swirl beneath the surface and submerged objects may pose risks to boaters of all ages and abilities.

Here are some tips to help you take your boat out safely and enjoy your time sailing, paddling or boating.


Research the Weather

When you go out in the open water, check the local weather to see the conditions of the waves, depth, and tides before you leave on your adventure. You can always look at local TV and radio forecasts for this information. Also understand that weather can change rapidly. A sunny and calm morning can turn into a rain storm, rough waves, and darkness in a short time span:

“If you notice darkening clouds, volatile and rough changing winds or sudden drops in temperature, play it safe by getting off the water”.


Have at Least Two People Who Can Navigate the Boat

When you take your boat out for an adventure, most of the people on the boat should know the basics of swimming and boating. If you do not know the basics, make sure that at least two people with you are familiar with all aspects of your boat, kayak, or canoe and general boating and safety.

“If the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated in any way, it’s important to make sure someone else can follow the proper boating safety rules to get everyone else back to shore”.


 

Always Use Life jackets

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The majority of drowning victims that are related to boaters are from not wearing life jackets. To prevent these accidents, all people on the boat MUST wear life jackets or preservers.

“Make sure that your family and friends aren’t part of this statistic by assigning and fitting each member of your onboard team with a life jacket prior to departure”.

When you are in doubt, it is best to wear it, even you are sitting on the boat.


Avoid Alcohol

Boating experts and analysts say that alcohol and boating do not mix well. The driver of the boat should drink no alcohol until the boat is safely moored on shore. Passengers should try to avoid alcohol as well.

“The probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved and studies have shown that the effects of alcohol are exacerbated by sun and wind”.


Learn to Swim

Of course, if you’re going to be in and around the water, boating safety includes knowing how to swim. Whatever your age or abilities, consider taking lessons to prepare you for any sort of challenge in the water.

“Local organizations, such as the American Red Cross and others, offer training for all ages and abilities. Check to see what classes are offered in your area”.


Know the Weight Limit of your Boat

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When you have a boat, please look at how many people and how much weight you can take on the boat. You should always know how many people can fit on the boat comfortably and safely, and how many pounds your boat can hold.

“Never exceed the weight capacity of your boat and always check your equipment for wear and tear before you paddle”


Always use Caution when on a Tube

Tubing is another fun activity that is popular here in Richmond. However, you do need to be safe with tubes as well. As a tuber, you must always check waves and water levels.

“It’s especially important to travel at slower speeds and keep an extra careful eye out if you are boat tubing with more than one tube”.

Even for advanced tubers, caution is still required. Tubes can flip in high water and rapids, and it is a good idea to go slowly and avoid being carried farther along by currents than you intended.



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