Posts Tagged ‘Boat Safety’

Boating Safety for Dogs

When you buy a boat, you buy it for your entire family and if your family includes a dog, you have to consider boating safety for your dog, as well as for your human guests.

Safety First
For the most part, dogs are natural swimmers and they really enjoy the water. This, however, does not mean that you do not need a life jacket for your dog. A dog can become too tired to swim or lose momentum, just as a human can. Also, falling overboard in high seas or during a storm can frighten dogs who are normally good swimmers. You will want to make sure that a life jacket you buy for your dog fits securely.

Sun Protection
The sun’s rays have an effect on us all, animals included. Short hair breeds of dog are especially prone to sunburn. Check with your vet about what kind of sunscreen would work best for your dog. Choose one that doesn’t have a heavy scent that might annoy your dog. A sunscreen with SPF 15 is fine for an average day out on the water, but you may want to use something with a higher SPF for days that are very hot.

Carry a Fire Extinguisher on Board for Safety

Since boats travel on the water, some people make the mistake of thinking that there is little to fear from fire. They figure if there is a fire on board a ship, there will be plenty of water around to extinguish it.

A boat needs to be equipped with a fire extinguisher because some fires cannot be put out with water alone. Plus, contaminants in some bodies of water could make a fire worse. And you may not be able to quickly access surrounding water in the case of an emergency.

While you should definitely carry at least one fire distinguisher on board your boat, you also want to check the Coast Guard rules. Depending on the type of boat, you may need to have more than one. You also want to make sure you have the right kind of fire extinguisher. Make certain that the mounts for your fire extinguisher(s) are attached securely before you start out.

When you have people on your boat, whether it is friends and family who boat often or those who have little nautical experience, take a moment to point out the location of the fire extinguisher(s). Everyone on board needs to know where the fire extinguisher is located.

Consider the Risks of Boating While Intoxicated

If you are of legal drinking age, there is nothing to keep you from drinking alcohol while operating a boat, but it is important to consider the risks. Some experts will tell you that ‘drinking while boating’ is more dangerous than drinking and driving on land. Mixing alcohol and boating can have serious consequences even for those who drink and are not operating a boat because of what can happen when your senses are not operating at 100% in a moving vehicle.

Body Heat
Some people seem to think that alcohol can help a person warm up. This is not really the case, in fact it is the opposite: alcohol can cool you down. Blood vessels dilate when alcohol is consumed and the body loses more heat than it would otherwise. This matters because sometimes someone who has been drinking on a boat may fall off of the boat into the water.

Alcohol use can also affect balance, something that is crucial whether you are steering a boat or just present on a boat. You do not have to be intoxicated for alcohol to affect the inner ear and your balance, either. Even if you are not aware, even small amounts of alcohol make it harder to keep your balance.

Flotation Devices and Boat Safety

Once you buy a boat, you may be thinking about the adventures you will have and all of the places you want to go. But before you embark on any voyages, you need to be certain that you are equipped for emergencies.

One of the very basic rules of boat safety is that you need to have one lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD) for every person on board. These PFDs need to be in good condition and readily accessible. They should also be Coast Guard-approved. These PFDs can be Type I, II, III or V; the most important things to remember is to have one for every person on board, which means that you have to plan accordingly when you invite guests to your boat. Sometimes boat owners get excited about having guests and forget that they will need an increased number of PFDs to accomadate the additional passengers. If some of your guests are also boating enthusiasts you can ask them to bring PFDs with them so that you can be sure that you have enough for everyone on board.

You will need to have a Type IV throwable PFD if your boat is 16 feet or longer (the exception to this is when you have a canoe or a kayak).

In addition to the required number of PFDs, you also need to carry visual distress signals that are Coast Guard-approved. These visual distress signals need to function in the daytime and at night.

Life Jacket Design Contest Offers $5,000 Prize

Calling for innovative, out-of-the-box thinking, BoatU.S. just announced the second Innovation in Life Jacket Design contest sponsored by the Boat Owners Association of the United States in partnership with the Personal Floatation Device Manufacturers Association and Underwriters Laboratories. The designer of the winning life jacket design will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

Entry deadline is February 1, 2011. To be eligible for consideration, designers must submit a working prototype of their life jacket design with a digital video showing the prototype in action. Complete entry details and contest rules can be found on

Entry videos will be posted on YouTube in February with finalists being selected by public vote. A panel of judges from the boating and water safety communities will choose the winning design which will be announced at the International Boating and Water Safety Summit to be held March 6-9, 2011 in Savannah, Georgia.

When the first life jacket design contest was held in 2005, the venerable life jacket used around the world hadn’t been updated since its development 100 years ago. While life jackets are proven life-savers, many boaters find the traditional design cumbersome, awkward and uncomfortable. The first contest hoped to find life jacket designs that would be more comfortable, enticing more boaters to wear them instead of stashing them under the seats. The  2005 contest resulted in several new and innovative life jacket designs that are now available to the public and in use by the recreational boating industry and U.S. Coast Guard.

Boaters Should Check Mooring Lines in Fall

When you first buy a boat, it doesn’t take long to realize the importance of maintaining your boat’s mooring lines. Fail to regularly inspect and repair or replace your mooring lines and your boat could wind up drifting across the lake or bobbing out to sea on the tide. That’s a high price to pay for a bit of rope.

But what an important piece of rope!  Only your boat’s fenders get more punishing, daily use than the mooring lines. These stout rope cables are the umbilical cord that keeps your boat tethered safely to the dock. Under the destructive forces of sun, water and wind, mooring lines take a beating. Like all things that get heavy daily use, they will degrade over time and eventually break down.

Boat owners should carefully inspect mooring lines in the fall when they’re preparing their boat for storage. Any damaged or frayed lines should be repaired or replaced.  Taking care of this critical boat maintenance item in the fall ensures that your boat will be ready to launch quickly next spring.

While a thorough annual inspection of the mooring lines should be a regular step in your fall boat maintenance program, boat owners should make it a habit to take a good look at their mooring lines every time they tie up or cast off. It’s also wise to give lines a more thorough inspection following any bad storm.

Boaters Should Heed Small Craft Advisories

As the seasons change from summer to fall, shifting winds and weather patterns can cause boating conditions to change rapidly, catching recreational boaters unawares. Pop-up storms or stiffening winds can create hazardous water conditions, particularly for small craft, that can turn deadly if boaters do not heed warning signs. Boaters should pay attention to Small Craft Advisories and stay on shore when they’re posted.

All weather advisories are issued by the National Weather Service. When weather advisories are issued, the information is broadcast on marine stations, and Coast Guard stations and marinas fly signal flags alerting mariners to potential dangers. (If you’re new to boating, make sure you learn the meaning of important signal flags. They could save your life.) Small craft advisories apply to all boats smaller than 65 feet and are issued when wind speeds reach 18 knots or wave heights rise to 4 feet or above. Advisories may be issued sooner in waters that are difficult or hazardous to navigate in rough seas. 

If a small craft advisory is issued while you’re on the water, head for shore or the nearest protected cove. If you can’t make it back to the dock, alert the marina or friends on shore and keep them apprised of your position. It will give the Coast Guard a starting point to initiate a search if contact is lost. Of course, if the situation turns dire, report your position to the Coast Guard and request help.

Protect Boating Equipment from Winter Theft

Electronics, outboards and outdrives are the three items most commonly stolen from stored boats and personal watercraft like Jet Skis are at the top of thieves’ wish list, according to a claim survey by BoatUS Marine Insurance. Boat owners who store their boats for the winter usually don’t discover these thefts until spring, long after the thieves’ trail has gone cold. Boat owners can deter theft by taking a few painless steps to make their boat less attractive to thieves.

  • Before you put your boat in storage, remove electronics, small outboards and outdrives and any portable equipment and store it safely at home. Lock down larger outboards, outdrives and permanently installed equipment. Document model and serial numbers and snap a few photos for your insurance records. This information will come in handy if you ever have to make an insurance claim, whether for theft or accident.
  • Mark all equipment with your personal info in a way that stands out. This makes equipment harder for thieves to sell and can aid in ID and recovery if something is stolen.
  • Choose a storage facility for your boat that is secured with adequate fencing, locks and cameras and that is regularly patrolled or monitored.
  • If storing your boat at home, make theft as difficult as possible. Park your boat trailer with the tongue facing away from the street, remove trailer tires or add wheel locks and lock the hitch coupling.
  • Check on your boat periodically over the winter.

EPA Approves E15 Gas

Despite the concerns of boaters and the boating industry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the sale of E15 gas last week. The government’s decision increases the amount of ethanol that can be used in gasoline blends by 50%, 5% more than the previous 10%. While the EPA approved the ethanol increase only for newer vehicles, critics in the boating industry believe the change will prove confusing to boat owners.

Because testing on the long-term effects of E15 gas on boat motors has not been completed, the boating industry had petitioned the EPA to defer approval of E15 gas until the completion of those tests. As a concession, the EPA said it will not mandate that gas stations offer the E15 blend and will require pumps to be clearly labeled. The EPA has also cautioned that E15 gas should not be used in power boats or boat motors manufactured before 2007. Engines produced before 2001 were not designed to be used with higher ethanol blends. The agency is still testing engines produced between 2001 and 2006.

Boat and boat engine manufacturers warn boat owners to check with the manufacturer before using E15 gas. The higher ethanol blend may ruin some engines or invalidate manufacturer warranties.

Keep Boating Pets Safe

One of the joys of owning a boat is that you can bring your pets along to enjoy family activities. Cats may not be boating naturals, but water-loving dogs will jump at the chance to leap aboard. Follow these tips if you take your pet boating with you:

  • Before you invite Rover to hop in the car, check with local marine authorities to make sure pets are welcome. Ask about pet policies so you and your pet can be good citizens.
  • Always bring a copy of your pet’s vet, vaccination and rabies records.
  • Check with your boat insurance agent to find out whether your pet will be covered if an accident occurs.
  • Bring along a pet survival kit: food, water, treats, pet bowls, life jacket and portable pet bed.
  • Before you let Fido climb aboard, pet-proof your boat as much as possible. Pack away dangerous or toxic materials, including fishing hooks, cleaning products and fuel cans.
  • Provide a ramp so your pet can easily move from pier to boat.
  • Pets can get overheated in the hot sun. Make sure Rover has a shady place to rest and offer plenty of water.
  • Don’t forget the potty. You won’t find any trees in the middle of the lake! Bring along pee pads or the new Pet Loo.
  • Help your pet develop his sea legs by starting with short trips and working up to all-day cruises.