Hands down, summer is the best time of the year for boaters, especially in the Great Lakes region. However, where there’s fun, there’s often an element of danger. Preparation and knowledge are paramount to having fun while observing safe boating practices. In 2015 alone, 53 people died of drowning in the Great Lakes, many of which were due to boating accidents or mishaps.
Having the right equipment and knowledge can be the difference in surviving a boating accident or becoming a statistic. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are some critical actions to take before you even get your boat in the water.
• Remember the Life Jackets – This may seem like an obvious safety step, but it’s important to make sure you have enough (or more) life jackets for everyone on the boat. Also, check that all floatation devices/jackets are in good working condition, adhere to all safety regulations, and are Coast Guard-approved.
• Bring the Paperwork – Make sure you have all necessary permits and documents on board, such as the vessel’s papers, fishing licenses, and radio permits.
• Let Someone Know – If you plan on boating on a large body of water, such as one of the Great Lakes, make sure someone staying ashore knows your plan and your route. In the event anything does goes wrong, this can save time and effort in tracking you down and getting you and others to safety.
• Stock Fuel and Power – Before leaving shore, make sure your batteries are full of juice and you have more than enough fuel. It’s a good idea to make sure you have spare batteries on hand for both the boat itself and other important accessories, such as navigation devices. Remember: It’s better to have too much than not enough.
• Prepare Signaling Devices – Pack an air horn, flares, and other signal lights and noise devices to hail other vessels in case of a breakdown or rescue situation.
• Check the Weather – Getting stuck in the middle of a large body of water during a nasty storm is a dangerous situation, no matter the size of the vessel or skill of the captain. Be proactive in steering clear of possible bad weather.
• Know the Essentials – There are numerous other miscellaneous items to consider packing for the ride, depending on the vessel type; for example, fire extinguishers, proper ventilation in cabin areas, and pumps/bilges. The best way to make sure your vessel is ready to go is to put it through an official safety check .