Summertime is a boater's favorite season. With all of the good times that come with spending summer days on a boat, however, there is also a fair amount of potential risk that comes with the territory.
Whether you own a boat or you know someone who does, simply being on board makes you responsible for knowing and following proper safety precautions. Too many injuries happen on South Carolina's lakes and beaches every year. Don't let your boating story be one of them.
Keep safety equipment on board
Tossing a few life jackets on your boat and calling it a day isn't going to cut it. You should always have a lifejacket for every passenger. Remember what happened on the Titanic?
In addition to life jackets, you should also have a boat safety kit that includes first aid equipment and items you would depend on if you got stranded — things like flashlights, a whistle, ropes, a mirror (to signal for help), garbage bags (to use as rain ponchos), and of course, duct tape. You should also have a fire extinguisher on board, and it never hurts to keep a bucket handy just in case your boat springs a leak.
Know the water and check the weather
If you're boating on the ocean, it's important to understand how the tides and currents work where you are. If you're new to or unfamiliar with the area, it's a good idea to bring a local friend with you,
Whether you're boating in saltwater or freshwater, getting caught in a storm is no good. Be sure to check the weather before you embark on your boating adventure, and plan your trip accordingly.
Don't drink and drive
In the state of South Carolina, it is illegal to drive a boat if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is greater than .05%. Penalties for BUIs (Boating Under the Influence) vary based on whether it's your first offense, but your misdemeanor could result in hefty fines, community service, and jail time.
Besides the legal repercussions of drinking and boating, there's the basic fact that it's a dangerous and often deadly combination. There aren't traffic signals and yellow lines on the water, which makes it that much easier to get distracted as you cruise along. Alcohol slows down brain functions, which will significantly delay your response time and cause you to feel sluggish. That's not the state you want to be in when you're responsible for a vessel and a crew — not to mention others in the water.
Follow proper anchoring and docking procedures
Just because it's an anchor doesn't mean it's the right anchor for your boat. Depending on the size of your boat, you may need to drop two anchors in a V formation at the front of the boat. Twenty to thirty feet is a decent depth for anchoring on a windy day.
Speaking of wind, this can create a challenge when trying to pull your boat up to the dock. Pay attention to the direction the wind is blowing as you approach shore, and adjust your speed and trajectory accordingly.
Get your boat checked
Did you know that you can get a free Vessel Safety Check through the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons? These checks only take about 15 minutes, and they're risk-free, meaning there's no penalty if your boat doesn't pass the inspection.
The Safety Vessel Check will inspect the following items:
- Registration and numbering
- Navigation lights
- Fire extinguishers
- Distress signals (flares, horn, etc.)
- Battery cover and connections
Take a boater safety course
Boater safety courses are available online, and many are free. For a course that's specific to your state, check out the resources from Boat US Foundation.
Regardless of how familiar you are with boating, taking a safety course will reinforce some of the standard safety precautions you already know and also serve as a reminder of the responsibility you carry as captain.
Know who to call
If for some reason you are injured in a boating accident, contact Bluestein Attorneys. Our attorneys specialize in personal injury cases of all kinds, and we are fully prepared to represent you. Call our office at (803) 674-8815, or leave a message on our website to get in touch.