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Staying Safe with Boating and While in the Water

August 4, 2010

Family Boating Fun

It is half way through the 2010 summer boating season and Go2marine wants you to stay safe. Here are some reminders of safe water and boating rules. The first rule of boating is to stay aboard and not have an accident. The second rule is PFDs are the key to survival when in the water.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the USCG offer these tips for safe boating and play in the water.

  1. Don’t Swim Alone: Do not allow children to swim without an adult. Even adults should never swim alone. It is best to swim with others. In a pool, swim at a depth that is safe for you. If you’re just learning to swim, stay in the shallow end. Keep in mind that swimming at night increases all risks.
  2. Follow Regulations: If you are at a public pool or beach, follow all regulations and lifeguard directions. Depth markers are important. You should never dive into shallow water. Additionally, if there is not a lifeguard on duty, you should take extra safety precautions.
  3. Learn to Swim and Boat: If you have a pool, or your family takes part in water activities, it is very important that you know how to swim. Learning basic swimming and boating techniques can save lives. Check with your local YMCA or community pool for information on swimming lessons from a certified swimming instructor. Most States and the USCG Auxiliary offer safe boating courses.
  4. Safety Equipment: It is important to keep rescue equipment by the pool or on your boat. PFDs – Life preservers and life jackets should be easy to access in case of an emergency. Additionally, adults and teens should know CPR. Statistics show that when CPR is performed, it improves the outcome for drowning victims.
  5. PFDs – Flotation Vests: When boating, you should wear a US Coast Guard-approved flotation vest, regardless of your swimming abilities. Even while wading in the ocean, at the lake or in a river, it is recommended to wear a personal flotation device; and is especially important for inexperienced swimmers and children. Remember, water wings, noodles, inner tubes and rafts should never take the place of an approved PFD.
  6. Designated Areas: Swim only at designated beaches or in swimming areas marked with buoys that keep boaters, water skiers and jet skiers away. If you cross these buoys, you run the risk of not being seen by boaters, and you could potentially be injured. Additionally, rip currents, tides and water depths may be deterrent the farther out you swim. Remember, designated swimming areas are the safest place to swim. 
  7. Don’t Drink* and Swim: At times, your swimming activities may also include a family BBQ or picnic. However, it is important to remember that alcohol and water sports don’t mix. Your chances of drowning or becoming injured increase greatly when under the influence of alcohol. Additionally, many beaches do not allow alcoholic beverages.
  8. Surf Conditions: Ask a lifeguard about surf conditions before swimming in the ocean. Rip tides are dangerous and can catch even the best swimmers off guard. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore. Once you are free of the current, swim toward the shore. Rip currents can be recognized as water that is discolored, choppy, foamy or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from the shore. Report any hazardous conditions to the lifeguard on duty.
  9. Warning Flags: Beaches post warning flags to alert swimmers of the day’s conditions. Be sure to check these flags before entering the water.

The USCG has enforced a nation wide crackdown on bow riding. One of the most likely ways to get killed or maimed on a boat is to ride on the front, or bow, U.S. Coast Guard officials warned while announcing a crackdown on the practice. Even having on a life vest may not help the person who falls overboard, officials said, since the boat’s hull and the propeller can pose serious and immediate threats of injury.

Speaking to the Washington Post, USCG Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Henise said compared the practice of riding on the front of a boat to riding on a car’s hood. “Would you put your child on the hood of your car and ride around?” he asked rhetorically.

The top five contributing factors to the accidents included boat operator inattention and inexperience, excessive speed, improper lookout and alcohol consumption. The report states that *alcohol consumption “continues to be of major concern” in fatal accidents, and was the leading factor in 16 percent of deaths.

In addition, a full 86 percent of boat operators involved in fatal accidents had not received boat safety instruction.

Bay Sailing

Some sobering statistics to ponder, did you know that:

  • Swimming is the third most popular recreational activity in the US.
  • Children from non-swimming households are eight times more likely to be at-risk of drowning.
  • According to the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents cause approximately 100 deaths annually in the United States.
  • According to the USCG, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death among children younger than the age of 15.
  • The CDC also estimates an average of 10 people — adults or children — drown every day in this country.
  • 92% of children who survive a drowning are discovered within two minutes following submersion, and 86% children who die are found after 10 minutes.
  • A total of 4,730 accidents recorded by the Coast Guard in 2009 caused 736 deaths, over 3,300 injuries and about $36 million in property damage.

Enjoy yourself, take your time and wear a PFD while boating. Play safe, know how to swim and have a buddy when in the water. Complete a safe boating course whether you are a new or long time boater.

In parting, here is something you can do to prevent the other common ‘fall overboard’ situation.

3 Responses to “Staying Safe with Boating and While in the Water”


  1. Interesting post. Also you should note that regulations require when boating offshore that certain safety equipment like flares, EPIRBs, etc. typically need to be carried, particularly on larger vessels.

    • sailorf21 Says:

      The point is well noted. The original audience of this article is small craft users on inland waters.
      I chose not to get into the area of commercial vessels. There are too many considerations – a commercial fishing boat has different requirements than a small passenger ferry – there is also different requirements for near shore, off shore and transoceanic vessels. On top of that, offshore sailboat racing has rules that exceed USCG requirements. Flares are required on some vessels, yet not EPIRBS.
      For our area, the Pacific Northwest, here are the Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety requirements…

  2. Tas Says:

    Safety is paramount when sailing and I think that there are some great ranges of clothing that can enhance safety whilst on sea. I prefer Gill Sailing Clothing as they have a good range of protective wear.


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