PEMCO's top boating safety tips
Make sure all life jackets on your boat are in good condition
- Check life vests. A life jacket doesn’t help much if it’s stowed away somewhere on the boat. All life jackets on your boat should be in good condition – without rips, tears, or rust y snaps – and readily accessible in case of an emergency. An appropriately sized life jacket must be available for everyone on board and should be stored in a dry place to protect against mildew and rot.
- Check safety equipment. Ensure that all fire extinguishers are charged and all system alarms and other safety equipment function properly, including bilge alarms, depth alarms, and temperature alarms.
- Check engine and mechanical parts. Tune the engine – change oil and filters. Lubricate steering and shift linkage. Check all ignition and secondary wiring for wear. Ensure all electronic equipment is operating properly. Check the general condition of your vessel and repair as necessary. Check the coolant level and test for proper mixture, if applicable. Check and replace zinc anodes if necessary.
- Install a corrosion-resistant, marine-grade carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide, a byproduct of incomplete fuel combustion, is one of the most common causes of fatal poisoning. Carbon monoxide can be given off not only by the engine, but also by heating, cooking, and gas refrigeration units. If you don’t already have a carbon monoxide (CO) detector on your boat, get one – especially if your boat has an enclosed cabin. Inspect the exhaust system for leaks.
- Clean the bilge. A clean bilge prevents bacteria growth, rust, and corrosion on stored equipment. Allowing debris to collect in the bilge can clog a bilge pump when you need it most. It’s a good idea to check the electric bilge pump, as well as manual and portable pumps. Never pump contaminated bilge water overboard; use approved shore-side facilities or an approved mobile pump-out service. Improper discharge pollutes the environment and is illegal, subjecting you to potentially large fines.
- Take a safe-boating course. Both Washington and Oregon require boaters to complete a boating safety course. The law applies to all boaters in Oregon and is being phased in (by age) in Washington through 2014. Check your state’s boating guide for specifics. In addition to complying with the law, completing a safety course will improve your knowledge of basic boating terms, safety items, and aids to navigation, and can also provide an insurance discount. PEMCO offers a discount for those who complete a USCG Auxiliary or Power Squadron course.
- Don’t drive a boat under the influence of alcohol. Fifty percent of all boating fatalities are alcohol related. Operating a boat while intoxicated is illegal and dangerous.
- Be weather-alert. Storms can move in quickly and catch boaters unaware. Signals such as sudden wind shifts, lightning flashes, and choppy water all can mean a storm is brewing.
- Guests. Familiarize your guests with safety and emergency procedures before leaving the dock. Make sure someone on board is able to take over for you and operate the VHF radio to ask for help if you become disabled.
- Mooring. Don’t anchor too close to other boats. The wind can change and in a matter of minutes you can have fouled and tangled anchor lines, with hulls and dinghies banging against each other. Also remember to allow for the changing tide and its affect on the amount of scope (i.e., the ratio of the line used for water depth) in your anchor line.
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