The waters of Volusia County are some of the most fun places to play.
The beautiful surroundings relax the soul and revive the spirit. The many access points, restaurants and businesses that cater to the boating community make it easy to get right down to the fun. But, like with all things awesome, you have to keep some things in mind to make sure you and everyone around you enjoy the fun without mishaps that can come with common mistakes.
So, I consulted an article by a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division and the guidelines set by the American Boating Association (ABA) to get some tips on being prepared and staying safe.
Float On: Life Jackets
You may get pulled over and checked for life jackets. Make sure you have enough for everyone on board. You must also make sure the life jackets you have fit everyone. Children and infants need a strap that goes in between the legs to help keep the life jacket in place.
There are inflatable life jackets as well that inflate upon impact with the water. Life jackets are a simple way to save your life should you get thrown overboard or, worst case scenario, are involved in an accident. It only takes a minute to put on and can save your life.
While they may not be the coolest looking things in the world, it’s one rare instance where function trumps fashion.
40-oz. to Freedom: Boating and Alcohol
There’s nothing like an ice-cold beer on a hot day. Heck, Jimmy Buffet has a whole career based on his ability to sing about summer drinking.
Unfortunately, you can get a BUI. It’s exactly like a DUI except on a boat.
Don’t let your fun day get ruined by overindulgence. Remember that a boat is a vehicle and the same laws apply as if you were driving a car. No one is saying you can’t have a beer or two; just don’t have the whole 12-pack if you are the one in charge of driving the boat.
Be kind to your passengers and everyone else out there on the water trying to have a good time. Best way to stay safe is to simply not drink and operate a boat!
What a Wonderful World: Pay Attention
There is so much to see it can be hard to focus on the task at hand. You’ve probably got a boat full of friends, kids, dogs and who knows what else. Everyone is having fun and you have to make sure they all get home safely.
Many of the careless mistakes made while boating involve not paying attention. There’s a lot out there and many hazards to watch for. You must pay attention to the weather, other boaters, wildlife and obstacles in the water to name a few.
Make sure you understand the laws and rules of the waterway. File a “float plan.” Let someone know where you are going and check-in when you return. This way if something bad happens, someone can alert the authorities if you don’t return as scheduled.
You can visit FloatPlanCentral.org for a free downloadable template for your float plan.
Carry that Weight: Overloading the Boat
You’ve done everything else and you’re ready to head out. Did you make sure to check your boat’s capacity limit? Here is one instance where it is OK to talk about weight.
Make sure you are including all the stuff you’re bringing as well as the weight of your passengers and yourself. While it may be fun to invite everyone you know out for a day on the water, it’s not the greatest idea.
Too much weight and the boat will sink or, even worse, capsize.
Your vehicle has a weight limit – the U.S. Coast Guard Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 states your boat should have a capacity plate posted in a conspicuous place. Just because you have a 10-seater doesn’t mean you can put 10 full-sized adults on that boat.
When you are at full capacity, remember that weight shift can cause problems. Only move about the vehicle when you have stopped or slowed down.
Beyond the Sea: Know your Boat!
I know you just want to hurry up and get out there, but don’t let silly mistakes trip up your day. Here are a couple things to keep in mind before you head out on the water.
Make sure you have enough gas for the trip you plan to make. Sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many people forget this one. Check your boat’s drain plug or plugs. Becoming waterlogged is not likely in your plans for a fun day.
Make sure you have visual distress signals such as flares. Your visual distress signals are different for day and night, so make sure you have both and that they are operational. Your fire extinguisher(s) must be in working order in case of an onboard fire.
If you are a first timer, the Coast Guard auxiliary offers a boating safety course so you can have fun and stay safe. Make sure you understand the navigation rules of the water completely before heading out.
Oh, and a no wake zone is not a place where someone is taking a nap.
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