Following the brutal winter, there’s a mad rush for boaters to get back on the water for the summer boating season. But the USA’s largest recreational boaters group, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) says 'not so fast,' and urges boaters to be prepared by following these five tips:
• Ensure all safety gear – life jackets, radio, flares and other items – are ready to go. If you have the newer, more comfortable inflatable life jackets, be sure to open them up, inspect and test by filling with air and let them sit overnight to ensure they will keep you buoyant. A free Vessel Safety Check is offered by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and US Power Squadrons can also be requested by going to www.safetyseal.net
• Avoid a springtime sinking by ensuring any drive gear such as outdrive bellows (inboard/outboard), shaft packings (inboards), livewell and engine cooling plumbing, or through-hull fittings are not cracked, rotted or severely corroded. Boaters, in their rush to get back on the water, sometimes take short cuts on these critical safety and spring commissioning items that end up biting them on their undersides. Follow the step-by-step free spring commissioning checklist at www.BoatUS.com/springchecklist
• For freshwater boaters: If you keep your boat in a marina or dock that has electricity service, test and inspect to ensure no stray current is leaking into the water where it could potentially lead to Electric Shock Drowning, an often misunderstood and overlooked safety item. See http://www.BoatUS.com/esdexplained
• Have a back up plan to get home in case your boat won’t get you back to the ramp or dock. On water or on the road assistance for a disabled boat trailer can be summoned with the free BoatUS Towing App, available at www.BoatUS.com/app
• Have fun and make everyone an important part of your crew. In some areas, boating traffic could be significantly up so use the extra sets of eyes as lookouts, share the sunblock and have plenty of water aboard to stay hydrated. If alcohol is in your plans, celebrate the opening of the season back at the dock or home where you’ll be in a much safer spot.