10 Important Boat Safety Tips to Be Aware Of on the Lake This Summer
Summertime is perfect for sailing. If you own a boat or a yacht, then boat insurance acts as a security blanket in the event your boat gets into an accident and gets damaged.
If you’re a boat owner, then you’re probably no stranger to experiencing the inconvenience of a hiccup when you take your loved ones out for a day trip on the lake. Getting stranded while sailing creates a very dangerous situation.
From motorboats to canoes to luxury yachts, there are several ways to abandon ship. No matter where you set your sights on to sail, the safety of yourself and passengers should be the main priority. So, before you set sail, here are 10 important boat safety tips to be aware of on the lake this summer.
1. Get your boating license
Just like you need a driver’s license to drive a car, you need a boating license to operate a boat. It is mandatory in Canada if you operate a power-driven boat to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operating Card (PCOC). Similar to taking a road test for a driver’s license, you need to pass a boating safety test to get your boating license. Once you pass it, you have to carry it with you at all times while operating a boat.
2. Take a boating safety course
If you decide to take your boating license, Transport Canada suggests you prepare by taking one boating safety course. The preparation course teaches you about safe boating practices and ways to prevent risky situations while sailing. By taking a boating safety course, you’ll be well prepared when you undertake the PCOC.
3. Perform maintenance on your boat
Before you hit the waves, make sure your boat has been properly checked. By maintaining your boat before setting sail, you can spot any problems and have them fixed. Here’s a list of boat maintenance tips that you should do.
Wash your boat using a long-handled scrub brush with a boat soap. Try using boat soap to keep the gelcoat locked in on your vehicle.
Just like cars, the oil in your boat needs to be changed. Take it to your local marina to have someone help you do it.
Make sure you have enough fuel in your boat’s fuel tank. If you have an older boat, check the fuel lines for any cracks. Any cracks can cause a fuel leak and spark a fire.
When you check your fuel tank, make sure there’s no water in it. As the famous saying goes, “Water and oil don’t mix.” This is true for your boat’s engine. To prevent water from seeping into the fuel tank, close the vents on your boat while it’s sitting at the dock
If your boat has an outboard engine, it’s important to inspect the propeller. Check for dents, nicks, or fishing lines wrapped around the shaft.
4. Prepare the boat
Once you’ve completed the general maintenance of your boat, stock it with all of the essentials. These are the following items you need to have on board for safety precautions:
- Canned food and bottled water
- Distress signals
- Fire extinguisher
- First aid kit
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Flotation devices such as life jackets and foam rings
- Battery-operated radio to receive weather updates
- Rules and documentation
- Tools and spare parts
5. Always check the weather before you sail
Bad weather is what scary movies are made of when you’re on a boat. In reality, weather is something that you shouldn’t neglect. You can’t change mother nature’s mind. So, before heading out, ensure you check the local forecast on the day you were planning to sail. If there’s even a slightest chance of a shower or thunderstorm, it’s best to postpone the boating trip for another day.
6. Carry navigational charts
When driving a car, there are traffic lanes, signs, and street lights to guide you. Now, imagine when you’re operating a boat, you don’t have lanes and signs telling you which direction to go. That’s why it’s important to carry navigational charts, as they show visual details in the area, including water depths, buoys, and objects you should avoid. We don’t recommend sailing without navigational charts. In Canada, it’s actually the law to have them in your boat. You can purchase charts for navigational use at the Government of Canada.
7. Learn how to swim
While operating a boat, we recommend that all passengers and boat operators wear a lifejacket. If you plan to be the boat operator, consider yourself the captain, and the captain is always responsible for every passenger’s safety. As a safety precaution, you should learn how to swim, as it’s an important skill to have just in case someone goes overboard.
8. Make a sail plan
Before taking a boat trip, always let other family members, friends, or the staff at your local marina know about your sail plan. You should give them your name, contact information, the names and contact information of your passengers, and your boat details such as make, model, and name. Give them a copy of a list of safety equipment on board, your destination, and how long you’ll be away, and the approximate day and time you’ll be back at the marina.
9. Be alcohol-aware
Similar to drinking and driving, drinking and boating is prohibited. It might be tempting to have a cold alcoholic beverage while operating a boat, but it’s still against the law. There are port police who patrol the lakes, and they can administer a breathalyzer test on the spot if they stop your boat and suspect you’ve been drinking. If you fail your breathalyzer test, you could face a fine or criminal charges. While operating a boat, it’s best to be responsible and hold off on the alcohol until you’re back at the marina on dry land.
10. Understand emergency procedures
Acting swiftly when a boating emergency arises can save lives and prevent accidents from happening. You should be familiar with the following on how to deal with emergency procedures:
- How to use a fire extinguisher in case a fire breaks out on the boat.
- How to operate a marine radio for calling for help by contacting the right person.
- How to find someone who fell overboard.
- How to survive in cold water.
- How to deal with a broken down boat.