As the warmer weather is approaching it’s about that time to get those toys out! If you are like many Michiganders, you enjoy boating in the summer. But did you know that there are certain things you must keep on board to be in compliance with Coast Guard regulations? Here are some tips to help you have fun and stay safe on the water.
1. Check your navigation lights – in order to be visible to others between sunset and sunrise or during times of decreased visibility (rain, fog, etc.), you need to ensure your boat’s running lights are in working order.
2. Visual Distress Signals – most boaters carry a set of flares to signal to those nearby if they are in trouble. Did you know that flares can expire? To be safe, check yours before heading out on the water this summer.
3. Sound-producing device – this could be an air-horn, bell, or whistle. These are designed to notify close-by vessels of your presence in low-visibility situations such as thick fog.
4. Life jackets – the number of personal flotation devices (PFD’s) you have on board has to equal the number of people you have on the boat and/or are towing on skis or in a tube.
5. Throwable flotation device – one item on board must be a floatation device that can be thrown to reach a person in distress from on board the boat. These are often life rings with attached ropes that help you pull the person in to safety from a distance.
6. Fire extinguisher – check the fire extinguisher aboard your boat to make sure it is in serviceable condition. These also expire, so make sure to replace any old or damaged extinguishers.
7. Ship-to-shore radio – It’s important to keep up to date on weather or hazardous conditions when on the water. Having a radio also keeps you in direct contact with authorities in case of an emergency.
Most importantly, do not drink and drive. Drinking while piloting a boat can be more dangerous than drinking and driving a car. Alcohol affects your ability to control body temperature and limits your reaction time to danger. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, “alcohol is more hazardous on water than on land.” Whether or not you are the captain, boating under the influence is not a good idea.
These are all very important tips, remember the Coast Guard is watching and is always there to help!