We've discussed before how South Carolina stacks up in terms of boating safety - a mixed bag of good and bad. So, what issues contribute to boating accidents? Alcohol does, of course, and everyone agrees that it's safest to wear a life jacket, even on larger boats where it's not technically required. Also, we should keep overloaded boats and pilot error in mind.
The core issue may simply be that some boaters just don't treat an afternoon out on the boat as seriously as they should. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources provides a list of tips on how to boat more safely - starting well before your hull hits the water. Here are a few of the top tips:
Before you go:
- Record your "float plan" and make sure to give it to someone responsible - just in case. An example of a basic float plan is available from the DNR. At the very least, make sure someone knows where you're going and when you're expected back.
- Check out your boat and gear to ensure everything is in serviceable condition. This should include your safety equipment. Make sure you have lifesaving devices in the right sizes for your passengers.
- Check the weather.
- Make sure you have a charged cellphone that gets service where you'll be going.
- If the group will be drinking, designate a sober driver.
Once you're out on the water:
- Understand and follow the area's buoy system and any other aids to navigation.
- Honor the right of way on the water: Boats approaching from your right have the right of way.
- Watch out for overhead wires and power lines that could snag your sailboat.
- Anchor from the prow.
- Throw a floatation device - or even a Styrofoam cooler - into the water. Keep an eye on the person so you don't lose track of where they are.
- If your boat capsizes, stay with it - you're more likely to be found.
- If a dangerous storm catches you off guard, make sure everyone is wearing their personal floatation devices and get them settled low in the boat. Then, head into the wind.
Stay safe out on the water this year!
Source: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, "Boating Safety," copyright 2014