With the beautiful weather, we experience year-round in Southwest Florida, there’s rarely a bad time to enjoy a day out on the water. But whether it’s the middle of summer or moving towards the winter months, you should be conscious of boating safety when you take your family or friends out on the water. No matter how much experience you have, there are a few important things to keep in mind to make sure you are being safe. Here are our top boating safety tips.
Keep a Safety Gear Checklist
Before you depart out on the water, keep a checklist of all the important things you might need to be prepared for any situation. Some essentials to keep onboard include:
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- Duct tape
- First aid kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Basic toolbox
- Distress signals
If your trips take you far offshore, you might also want to consider additional equipment, such as a full ditch bag with survival gear. Ditch bags also typically include a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) or Epirb, which are satellite-enabled devices that will alert the US Coast Guard in times of distress.
Be Weather Conscious
It’s important to pay attention to the weather, especially during the late summer and early fall months in Southwest Florida, when we’re prone to having afternoon thunderstorms. Be sure to check the local forecast and weather and water conditions, including the future radar. Keep in mind that afternoon thunderstorms can come out of nowhere so time your ride to avoid getting stuck on the water in the middle of a storm.
Most of our local weather stations, like NBC-2 and ABC-7, include boating forecasts in their morning weather segments and that is often a great place to look. You can also access weather apps on your cellphone for up to the minute radar. Cellular signals have limited range though, so it’s best not to rely solely on these. If you plan on making long offshore trips, investing in a marine radar for the boat to track weather might prove to be a worthwhile investment.
Bring Proper Life Jackets
Life jackets are essential to boating safety. Not only do they keep you afloat, but they can turn an unconscious person face-up, or even help prevent hypothermia. By law, all boats must have a US Coast Guard approved life jacket on board. Make sure that you have the right life jacket for the height and weight of each passenger before departing and have everyone try theirs on before taking off to ensure everything will fit properly.
Follow Nautical Navigational Rules
Just like when you’re driving your car on the right side of the road, using your turn signal and stopping at stop signs, there are navigational rules to driving a boat. Make sure whoever is operating the boat knows and understands the rules of navigation before taking to the water, as well as any additional boating safety procedures. The US Coast Guard offers hands-on courses for boating safety if you need to brush up on the rules and responsibilities.
Follow Proper Docking & Anchoring Procedures
Depending on the wind, weather, and water conditions, docking & anchoring can be two challenging aspects of boating. When docking your boat, make sure you are following the proper procedures to prevent damage to your boat and its passengers. Slow speed and anticipating the movement of the boat will help a lot. When anchoring, make sure you are dropping the anchor in at the right depth and angle to keep your boat from drifting. “Scope”, which is the amount of rode you have out, is a key part of anchoring. Rode is the combination of rope and chain and it is commonly recommended that you release 4:1 ratio to depth, but you may need upwards of 6:1 in rough conditions. For example, if you are in 20 feet of water at 4:1, that is 80feet of rode. The best time to practice these concepts is when you aren’t under pressure and the weather is nice. Learn how to anchor and dock, so when conditions aren’t favorable, you’re better prepared.
Get Your Boat Checked
The US Coast Guard Auxiliary and US Power Squadrons offer free vessel safety checks free of charge. It’s worth it to have them check that you have the right safety equipment required by state and federal regulations on your boat to ensure you are up to the standards of safety before taking your boat on the water.
Be Ready to Communicate
Cellphones don’t work offshore and even if they did work, they are a point-to-point communicator. The VHF Radio is the predominant tool most mariners rely on, both for its capability offshore and to be able to reach multiple people simultaneously. You’ll find that a fixed mount VHF Radio provides your best transmit range, but VHF handhelds are also a good option for backup or nearshore use. Also, most modern VHF Radios have DSC technology built-in, which relays GPS coordinates when the distress signal is activated. For the more active traveler, there are satellite phones and satellite text messaging devices.
Fish Tale Boats – Offering Boat Sales and Boat Service in Fort Myers
A perfect day out on the water starts with finding your dream boat. Fish Tale Boats is a leading regional Southwest Florida boat dealer that sells new and used Grady-White Boats, Robalo Boats, Chaparral Boats, and Premier Pontoon Boats. We also have an extensive parts & boat service department that can help ensure your boat is always in the best shape to take out on the water.
Come visit our boat dealerships in Fort Myers or Naples or contact us with any questions today at (239) 463-4448.