The nation’s largest recreational boating safety event of the year, National Safe Boating Week, is May 22–28, serves as a reminder to boaters to keep safety front and center all season long. The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water offers three tips for boaters to be safety heroes on the water.
- The best life jacket is the one you will wear, meaning one that’s comfortable. There are many lightweight inflatable life jackets that fit the bill. Check the jacket’s label to ensure it’s approved for your type of boating. If the kids are visiting, don’t be tempted to put a child in an ill-fitting adult life jacket.
- Boating safety reports indicate that operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents. Focus on eliminating these factors by putting down the cellphone, practicing using S.C.A.N. procedures to avoid distracted boating, taking a free boating safety course, slowing down, and driving more defensively, especially in congested boating areas. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, so save the celebration for after the boat is safely tied up for the night. Boat operators also need to recognize they are responsible for the safety of their guests, including inebriated ones.
- Remember to wear an engine cutoff switch if your boat is less than 26-feet, traveling on plane or above displacement speed. Engine cutoff switches can prevent boat strike injuries after an operator has been ejected from the vessel or displaced from the helm.
Sidebar: What Is SCAN?
SCAN: Search, Concentrate, Analyze, and Negotiate. This is something every attentive skipper does continually, and probably without thinking about it, while underway. Simply put, “scanning” is looking from side to side – and behind you – for boats, people, and objects on the water that may pose a risk of collision. Repeat whenever you’re underway.
Search the area all around your craft. This is a 360-degree examination of everything around your boat. Distances away will close or open depending on your speed or the speed of the observed boat or object. The faster you’re operating, the farther out you’ll need to search.
Concentrate on what you’re seeing. Is it a boat? What type? What is it doing? What is its relative speed? Is it a stationary object? Drifting or anchored? Things can happen fast out there, so these are questions you must consider while you look at the various observed boats or objects.
Analyze what you’re watching. Is it closing in on your position or going away from you? Remember, if the object you’re observing is getting closer to you and its relative position to you is not changing, it is on a collision course. Never assume you’re seen by other boat operators, who may or may not be distracted. Determine this by the way and direction they’re operating. Analyze how far away the boat or object is and how fast it is closing the distance between you and it.
Negotiate. What are you going to do? Slow down, turn away from the boat or object, and head in a different direction? Remember the Navigation Rules. Learn the proper action to take while meeting head on, crossing, or overtaking another boat.