Recreational Boating Safety – The Ten Commandments of Safe Boating

Bob CurrieBy Bob Currie, Recreational Boating Safety Specialist
U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Station Galveston Flotilla
This Friday, May 24, was the last day of National Safe Boating Week. The Coast Guard used this week to reach as many people as possible in the hopes that they would learn something about safe boating. The National Safe Boating Council recommends these ten safety tips for boaters. Some are required by law, which makes them commandments:

  1. Take a boating safety course. Gain valuable knowledge and on-water experience in a boating safety course with many options for novice to experienced boaters. This is required for boaters born September 1, 1993, or later.
  2. Check equipment. Schedule a free Vessel Safety Check with local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons to make sure all mandatory equipment (required by law) is present, working and in good condition. In addition, you will receive valuable Coast Guard recommendations.
  3. Make a float plan. Always let someone on shore know the trip itinerary, including operator and passenger information, boat type and registration, and communication equipment on board before you leave the dock. Be sure the person knows from what location you began and when you are expected to return.
  4. Wear a life jacket. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket – every time. A stowed life jacket is no use in an emergency. On boats less than 26 feet in length children under 13 are required by law to wear a properly fitting life jacket when underway. Additionally, jet ski operators are required by law to wear a life jacket.
  5. Use an engine cut-off switch – it’s the law. An engine cut-off switch is a proven safety device to stop a powerboat engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard. The engine cut-off switch lanyard must be worn by the person at the helm. Electronic devices are available also and work well.
  6. Watch the weather. Always check the forecast before departing on the water and frequently during the excursion.
  7. Know what’s going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents in 2021 were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout. Rule 5- Lookout is the law that requires that you must have a lookout.
  8. Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds. Be familiar with the area, local boating speed zones, and always travel at a safe speed (Rule 6).
  9. Never boat under the influence. A BUI is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. Always designate a sober skipper.
  10. Keep in touch. Have more than one communication device that works when wet. VHF radios, emergency locator beacons, satellite phones, and cell phones can all be important devices in an emergency. Use a marine VHF radio if you are not going out from shore farther than 20 miles. If you plan to go farther, then you should have some sort of satellite communication such as a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon).

Here is my bonus commandment: Know and follow the Rules of the Road. Especially follow Rule 5 (Post a Lookout), Rule 6 (Safe Speed), Rule 8 (Actions to Avoid a Collision), Rule 13 (Overtaking), Rule 14 (Passing Head-On), Rue 15 (Crossing Situations), and Rule 19 (Conduct in Restricted Visibility).
Only seven of the “commandments” above come from regulations. All the others could be classified as common sense or what a reasonable and prudent person would do. Many new boaters do not think to post a lookout, but this is so important it is a regulation. The only required position on the boat is the lookout.

The 2023 Recreational Boating Accident Statistics will be coming out at the end of June. It takes six months to compile and analyze the previous year’s statistics. I am hoping to see an improvement over 2022 statistics. You all can begin working on 2024 statistics by following the tips and regulations above.

[BC: May-28-2024]

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