Tips for practicing safe boating ahead of Memorial Day holiday
This Memorial Day -- the most popular boating holiday of the year -- there likely will be more first-time boat owners on the water than any other year in history. As a result, organizations like the Water Sports Foundation are encouraging safety training and promoting safety tips for new boaters in time for the holiday.
BEMIDJI, Minn. -- This Memorial Day -- the most popular boating holiday of the year -- there likely will be more first-time boat owners on the water than any other year in history, a release from the Water Sports Foundation said.
This is because people looking for socially distanced family fun drove record boat sales in 2020, as more than 415,000 people became first-time boat owners, the release said.
As a result, officials are encouraging safety training and promoting safety tips for new boaters in time for the holiday.
“The pandemic literally saw hundreds of thousands of newcomers join the ranks of first-time boat owners,” Jim Emmons, Water Sports Foundation executive director, said in the release. “So we’re taking extra precautions to proactively share safe boating strategies.”
According to 2019 U.S. Coast Guard figures, 70% of boating deaths occurred on boats where the operator had no safety instruction. Conversely, only 20% of boating deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate.
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In Minnesota, boaters can learn more about boating and water safety by taking the Minnesota DNR’s boating safety course online or in a classroom course taught by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons. For more information, visit mndnr.gov/boatingcourse .
“We’ve identified a dozen top tips for keeping boaters safe that we believe can positively impact boater safety while maximizing enjoyment on the nation’s waterways over this holiday season and beyond,” Emmons said.
Boating safety tips from the Water Sports Foundation:
Become educated: Before launching your boat, be sure you are confident and comfortable at the helm, following successful completion of a boating safety education course. If you haven’t already done so, enroll in a boating class taught by qualified and certified boating safety instructors, preferably with a curriculum that meets the approved American National Standard for on-water skills training.
Use life jackets: Drowning is the cause of death in 79% of fatal boating accidents where the cause of death was known, and 86% of those drowning victims were not wearing life jackets. Make sure your boat is equipped with U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for all passengers and they are sized to fit.
Don’t drink and drive: In Minnesota, alcohol is the No. 1 factor in boating fatalities and is involved in about 30% of fatal boat accidents. For the safety of your friends and family, avoiding alcohol altogether is recommended while boating, or designate a “sober skipper.”
Engage the ECOS: As of April 1, a federal law was enacted that requires the use of an engine cut-off switch (ECOS), an onboard safety device that is connected to the boat’s captain. Should the driver fall out of the boat, the ECOS will immediately stop the boat’s engine. Wireless versions are also available for active captains.
File a float plan: Before departing from your dock of choice, file a float plan with friends, family members, and/or your marina that communicates the names of all aboard with contact information including cell phone numbers; your destination with a planned itinerary and stops along the route; and your estimated return time.
- Be a weather watcher: Be smart and plan your boating activity according to weather forecasts and conditions. Check the weather in advance and continually monitor using available mobile apps. Should you be on a boat when mother nature unleashes her fury, find shelter as soon as possible.
Use pre-departure communication: Before getting underway, make sure the captain has clearly communicated safety information and ground rules with all passengers, including children.
Comply with your boat’s capacity: Every boat includes a designated maximum capacity rating. Be sure to know this requirement and to follow recommendations to prevent overloading and potentially capsizing your boat. Consider not only the weight of passengers but also gear, coolers, water toys and other carry-ons.
Be careful and pay attention: A vast number of boating accidents are attributed to operator distraction or inattention. The designated driver needs to be vigilant and take responsibility for the safety of those on the vessel.
Choose destinations wisely: If you’re new to boating with limited experience, don’t choose the busiest boating day of the year to travel to the most populated hotspot for boaters in the area. The ability to safely navigate, drop and set anchors and lines in confined spaces is exacerbated in close quarters. Choose a less congested venue and save the popular boating hub for a more manageable outing.
Follow posted speed limits and no-wake zones: Be aware of established speed limits and no-wake zones, and respond accordingly. The fastest way to get a ticket and incur fines is to violate these laws which are established to keep boaters safe.
Be cautious with nighttime boating activity: There is additional danger associated with boating after sunset when visibility is restricted, so new boaters should be aware of this. Boating traffic on the waterways, at area ramps and marinas is often heavily congested during holiday events, so slow down and use extra precautions. Make sure all your navigation and running lights are operational.