With spring's arrival in all the sailing countries of the northern hemisphere sailors have time to reflect on and improve their own safety on the water. The BoatUS Foundation, the USA's leading boat owners organisation, has these five spring boat tips for boating safety - but they can easily help you stay safe all summer long, and no matter in which country you are sailing:
Time to think about safety...
1. You're not in a bar (and don't want to end up on one):
'Alcohol affects you more out on the water than in an air conditioned bar,' says Foundation President Chris Edmonston. What that means is that boaters experiencing the sun, wind and waves don't handle alcohol the same way as they would ashore. US Coast Guard studies show that reaction times are slower. Fatigue occurs sooner. It's best to leave the alcohol for when you are safely ashore.
2. Your brother's keeper:
Don't forget that a boat owner is also responsible for his or her guests. So while it may be common practice to allow them to drink, inebriated guests can really ruin a day when they become a safety risk or injure themselves.
3.Night operation requires extra vigilance:
Operating a boat at night, with fewer visual cues, confusing background lights ashore, and other vessels moving about can be challenging. But there's one thing you can do which solves many of these problems: slow down. By slowing down the boat you give yourself the time and room to maneuver, make safe course changes and avoid hazards such as unlit navigation aids or shoals. Your second best nighttime 'tool' at your disposal: adding an extra spotter.
4. Brush up on your boating safety knowledge:
Here's a simple test: go out this weekend and identify every navigational aid you see and affirm its meaning - or better yet, identify all of them on a chart. If you can't, it's time to brush up on your rules of the road knowledge with a boating safety course. (BoatUS has a free online course at www.BoatUS.com/onlinecourse.)
5. Give the boat a 'checkup':
A vessel safety check is a good indicator of whether you and your boat are ready to handle a bad situation and have all of the right safety gear. (In the USA it's free, offered by US Coast Guard Auxiliary or US Power Squadrons. However, the best part is that it is not punitive, and gives you the chance to correct deficiencies. To find out how you can get one near you, go to www.safetyseal.net.)
BoatUS - Boat Owners Association of The United States - is the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters providing over half a million members with government representation, programs and money-saving services. For membership information visit www.BoatUS.com or if you are in the USA call 800-395-2628.