Memorial Day weekend is the perfect holiday to celebrate owning a boat. Invite your friends and family for a sunset cruise or anchor up to your favorite barrier island to fish. Before this weekend starts, all boaters amateur or experienced should take the time to review a few basics in boating safety.
Before leaving the dock:
• Check the weather forecast.
• Check all personal gear: UV sunglasses, sun screen, hat, wallet for cash and photo ID. Safety equipment: Life jackets, throwable cushion, ladder, first aid kit, flares, flashlight, cell phone and VHF radio. Vessel equipment: GPS, radar, lines, boat hook, anchor and batteries.
• Check boat's fluid and fuel levels.
• Stock plenty of drinking water and food for the day.
• Make sure everyone on board is familiar with the vessel and safety equipment.
• Know fuel capacity and range limits of your boat with a full tank. Always depart with a full tank.
On the water:
• Don't speed. Don't drink alcohol. Most collisions are caused by speeding, boating under the influence, loss of concentration or distraction.
• Everyone on board should wear deck-gripping shoes. Do not let anyone go barefoot.
• Keep your VHF radio turned on to listen for weather changes. Lightning can strike from as far as 25 miles away, head to port at the first sign.
In a storm:
• If you are caught in a storm, have everyone put on life jackets. On a sailboat, fasten safety harnesses to a jackline.
• Steer into each wave at a 45 degree angle. Use extreme caution if taking waves on your stern or broadside.
• Secure hatches and ports. On a sailboat, reduce size of sails.
• On a small boat, move passengers to the bottom and centerline of boat.
• Check bilges to make sure the boat is not taking on water. Small boats may require hand bailing.
• Anchor with a 10:1 scope if you cannot make it to port.
• If water is too deep to anchor, create one: a bucket, cooler or tackle box on a line. This will keep the bow headed into waves.
• During poor visibility turn on navigation lights, sound proper signals, post a low lookout on the bow and stern, then proceed slowly to port.
• If someone falls overboard, shout "MAN OVERBOARD," then identify which side of the boat the person fell over. In a powerboat, immediately kill the engine so the prop will not injure the person. Have one person keep an eye on the person in the water. Start the engine, and turn around and go back to pick the person up. Approach on the leeward side, the wind will blow the person to you. Kill the engine again as you approach.
• If your boat capsizes, stay with the boat. Account for every person and make sure they have a life jacket. Tie everyone together, hug to maintain body heat, make noise and whistle.
• If you run out of fuel, put down anchor, determine position on GPS and use Channel 16 on the VHF radio to contact a tow company or service station.