Top 5 Tips for Safe Boating

Like most Seattleites, you love getting out on the water. Boating is a huge part of what we enjoy about living in the Pacific Northwest. As you’re out driving through the waves on Puget Sound or the Pacific Ocean, it’s crucial to keep yourself, your family, and your friends safe.

The United States Coast Guard reported 122 boating accidents in the state of Washington in 2014, resulting in 67 injuries and 22 deaths. We never know how many of these tragedies are preventable, but we do know we can safely steer our behavior through choppy waters. Before you head out for your next boating trip, review these five tips for safe boating.

1. Take a Boating Course

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water offers a plethora of safe boating courses. It’s important to make sure you and the driving members of your family take one of these courses before you head out onto the water.

Many boat manufacturers and local yacht clubs now offer driving courses geared towards performance. While these courses aren’t specifically geared toward safety, they do teach you how to be a better boat driver, especially at high speeds. The more skilled you get at driving your boat, the more you understand how your boat operates.

As you continue your boating adventures, this increased skill and knowledge will help you make measured decisions on the water.

2. Pack Your Boat With Proper Safety Equipment

Your boat should have enough personal flotation devices (PFDs) to accommodate all of your guests. It’s also smart to have flotation rings. While you and your guests might wear PFDs, know how to swim, and stay in your boat, it’s not unheard of to encounter people who have been thrown overboard. In that rare circumstance, you can toss one of your flotation rings out to the person in need.

Always pack drinking water, food, and a first-aid kit. If your boat were to break down in open water, you’ll be prepared with sustenance as you wait for the Coast Guard to help you.

3. Before You Leave, Communicate Your Float Plan

Every time you go out onto the water, leave a plan with someone you trust. That plan should include a departure and return date and all the names of the people who are joining you.

Choose an assistant skipper to help you with navigation during your outing. You should trust your assistant skipper’s driving skills. In the case that you get sick or injured, he or she should be able to take over captain duties.

4. Wear Personal Flotation Devices

Everyone on your boat should be wearing a PFD at all times. It should fit your bodies snugly. It’s illegal for children to be without a PFD, and it’s just good common sense for adults to wear them. In the case of an accident, flotation devices protect boaters from dipping below the surface of the water, potentially preventing them from drowning or becoming seriously injured.

5. If You Do Get Into an Accident, File a Report

If you do get into a boating accident, then check to make sure all parties involved are unharmed. Contact the US Coast Guard immediately to report the incident. The Coast Guard not only can help to provide medical support, but they can also give you an incident report for your insurance company.

If necessary, exchange information with the other boat owner involved in the accident, obtaining their name, address, phone number, and hull number. Document any damage that has been done, and find out whether there have been any witnesses to the accident. Lastly, if you or any of your party have been injured, call a Seattle-based personal injury law firm to see if you have a claim.

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