All around the country, fall is in full swing and recreational boaters and anglers are trying to squeeze in their last good day on the water. But when they do, boaters need to follow a safety playbook appropriate for this time of year. That's because boaters often let their guard down when safety becomes an even greater challenge. What makes fall boating safety so different?
Fall is a great time to be on the water. It also means playing it safe in different ways.
The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water explains:
The sun is in your face and the breeze may be warm, but below the keel the water temperature has dropped. A simple fall overboard at this time of year can be a big problem if you can't get back into the boat. What is your plan to get back aboard, especially if you're boating solo? Wearing a life jacket can also buy you critical time to get back in the boat.
You need to let someone know where you're going and what time you'll be back. That's because there are significantly fewer boaters on the water at this time of year to bail you out if there's trouble. A float plan left with family or friends is simple to do, and don't forget to check back in upon your return. Here's an easy, sample float plan.
With temperature fluctuations, fog takes only a short time to appear. If you're headed out on the open water, carrying a compass and chart should be a bare minimum.
Check your communications gear, including your VHF radio and all of its wired connections. If it is a Digital Selective Calling (DSC) VHF, have you connected the radio to your GPS/chartplotter and have you gotten your MMSI number? If not, rescuers won't be able to find you quickly. BoatUS offers this service for free at BoatUS.com/MMSI. Handheld VHFs should be fully charged before you go, and remember that cell phone batteries don't last as long when you're using fishing or charting apps.
Layer up. It may be sunny when you head out, but a short rainsquall and temperature drop with clouds in the afternoon can serve up a case of hypothermia pretty quick. Be prepared for big swings in the weather.
BoatUS Foundation website