No matter what type of boat you are using, safety should be your top priority! Follow these ten safety tips to prepare for your time on the water.
Click the links to the Wisconsin Boating Laws and Responsibilites Handbook
Always check the local weather forecast before departing. Make sure you have a radio or some way to check the weather while on the boat in the event of a quick change in conditions. If the water begins to get rough or dark clouds are approaching - get off the water as quickly as possible.
Prepare for everything and anything. Following a pre-departure checklist is the best way to make sure no boating safety rules or precautions have been overlooked or forgotten.
Use common sense. Always operate at safe speeds and use extra caution in crowded areas. Be alert and give plenty of space to large boats or other watercraft that may have limited ability to stop or turn quickly. Respect all navigational aids, including buoys.
The captain should designate an assistant. At least two people on the boat should be familiar with boat, its operations and general boating safety. In the event that the captain gets injured or incapacitated it is crucial that another passenger is capable of getting the boat safely back to shore.
Have a float plan in place before departure. Inform a family member or someone trustworthy and nearby of the details. Most importantly, where you are going and how long you will be gone. In the event of an emergency, this person could notify local authorities and get help.
Your float plan should include the following:
Name, address, and phone number of captain
Name and phone number of all passengers
Boat type and registration information
Types of communication and signal equipment on board [i.e. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)].
Before departing, ensure that each passenger has a life jacket that fits properly and that they are actually wearing it!
Do not mix alcohol and boating. The probability of a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved. The effects of alcohol are compounded by wind and sun.
Learn how to swim! If you plan to spend time around or on the water, learning to swim is one of the best things you can do. Check local options for classes for all ages and abilities.
Take a boating safety course. Whether you are new or experienced on the water, you need to be familiar with the laws and responsibilities of boating. Boater safety education requirements vary from state to state, so be clear on your state's requirements. It's important to be prepared for anything and how to handle it. Courses can be taken in person and online. Educate yourself for the betterment of everyone on the water!
The US Coast Guard offers a free vessel safety check. They will examine your boat to verify you have the proper equipment and it is in working order as required by federal and state regulations. They also offer virtual online safety checks as well.