5 Boating Safety Checks to Complete Before the First Trip
Memorial Day weekend is already just around the corner. Memorial Day is traditionally seen as the beginning of the summer season, but for thousands of people around Michigan, Memorial Day is also the start of boating season.
After spending the winter in storage, it’s important to inspect your boat before taking it out on the water for the first time to make sure everything is still in good working order. Mechanical parts of boats can still break down over time even when the boat isn’t being used.
As you check over the mechanical and electrical systems in your boat, don’t forget to check your boat safety equipment. It’s very easy for a fun day on the water to turn tragic, even for an experienced boater. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 626 people were killed and 2,613 people were injured in boating accidents in 2015. Make sure you’re prepared to handle any emergencies that come your way and check these pieces of safety equipment.
Every time you go out on the water, all passengers of your boat need to be wearing a life jacket. It doesn’t matter if everybody knows how to swim or nobody is planning on getting in the water. It’s very easy for people to end up in the water unexpectedly and when you’re caught by surprise, it can be hard to stay afloat.
Examine your life jackets to make sure they haven’t gotten torn, the straps are still in good condition, the vest itself isn’t torn, and that you don’t see any signs of mold or mildew. Do you have enough life jackets for all of your passengers? Also, if you have a young child, don’t forget to make sure their life jacket still fits them correctly. If a life jacket is too small, it might not be strong enough to support a person in the water. On the other hand, if a person get into the water wearing a life jacket that’s too big, the person might not be able to stay in the vest, so don’t buy a vest expecting a child to grow into it.
What condition are your fire extinguishers in? Even if the gauges on your extinguishers are still in the “green” zone, it’s still smart to have your extinguishers professionally inspected before the start of each boating season. Don’t try testing a fire extinguisher by using a small amount of it, since this can cause it to leak. If you need to replace a fire extinguisher, make sure you find one that has been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Flares and Horns
If you end up in trouble while you’re out on the water, flares and horns are very important for drawing attention to yourself so you can get help. In addition to testing the horn on your boat, make sure you have a functioning air horn on board as a backup. You may even want to keep a whistle as an extra option since it will definitely still work if it gets wet.
While you certainly don’t want to test your flares by setting them off, you can check their expiration dates. Flares have a four-year lifespan, but remember that means four years after the date of manufacture, not the date of purchase.
Carbon Monoxide Detector
Does your boat have an enclosed cabin? If so, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector on board and that it’s still working. Portable marine generators can emit carbon monoxide, as can other mechanical components of a boat if proper parts haven’t been used during repairs. Carbon monoxide is very dangerous, but since it’s both colorless and odorless, you might not realize there’s a problem until it’s too late.
Check Your Batteries
Many different things on boats need batteries to operate, like the boat itself, GPS units, and flashlights. Check all the batteries on your boat to make sure they’re still working and replace or recharge the batteries that need it. The last thing you want is to get stranded or unable to call for help because the battery has died.