The Importance of Boating Safety
The majority of people will at some point in their life venture out on a boating excursion whether that is on a motor boat or out on a rowing boat. You may be going on a recreational trip, fishing, sightseeing, recreational activity or just to have a nice day out. However a seemingly harmless trip could quite easily turn bad if you do not take the correct precautions. Below there are a few tips to try and make sure you have a safe and enjoyable time boating.
PFD stands for Personal Flotation Devices. PFD are very important on all kinds of boating trips as even the most experienced of swimmers can find themselves in trouble if caught off guard. Therefore make sure and be prepared and wear your PFD. At least try to ensure your PFD are worn while there is bad weather, an emergency, low visibility, night time, when alone and whenever you are in unfamiliar waters. Children should always be wearing PFD if they are at any potential risk of going overboard. It is very important to ensure that all PFD fits correctly and that the user isn’t going to slip out of it.
Alcohol and Drugs
Like when driving a car, there is a much greater risk of an accident occurring if the operator is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. That is why most countries have a limit on the alcohol allowed in the blood while operating a boat.
If you are on prescription drugs there can be adverse effects on your body and you should always read the label of the drugs or consult your doctor to confirm whether it is safe or not.
It may sound ridiculous but ensuring that any persons on a boat of any kind is not suffering from any illness is important just in case an emergency did arise and they had to be capable of looking after themselves.
Having a certain degree of fitness is also advisable on all kinds of boats but especially rowing boats. Rowing boats tend to be a lot smaller and are at greater risk of capsizing. Therefore ensuring the occupants of the boat are capable of rowing the planned distance is important. Rowing machines are a very common in all commercial gyms. Or you could invest in a home rowing machine, just make sure to do some research so you get the best rowing machine for your requirements. So it may be worth getting some practice in before you head on a rowing boat.
It is very easy to jump on a boat and go exploring. However it is advisable that you do your research on the area that you plan on venturing into as the water may look calm but some seas become very dangerous very quickly! You do not want to be caught in a rip tide that may catch you off guard.
Inflatable life jackets are just one of the many forms of PFD Personal Flotation Devices. Wearing a life jacket is very important, however knowing how to use it properly and maintain it is also just as important. This article will try to cover some of the basic points of life jacket safety but for further information make sure and head over to the U.S Coast Guard’s site and have a look on there.
There are a number of different brands that make life jackets however there are only three particular brands that are approved by the USCG, which means that these particular jackets will comply with boating laws.
What to do is an automatic life inflatable life jacket fails to inflate?
All automatic life jackets that are approved by the USCG can be manually inflated. The wearer must pull the lanyard that is attached to the inflation mechanism which will in turn puncture the unused CO₂ canister causing it to inflate. If this fails there is another option to orally inflate the life jacket by blowing into the orange tube located on the inner upper left side of the jacket.
Bobbin/ Pill Inflators
Some life jackets have a chemical inflator bobbin. There was a change in the design of these bobbins and the new models now use a yellow shell bobbin instead of the previous red shell bobbin. If your life jacket still has the red shall bobbin then you should try to replace it with the yellow shell version ASAP. If your life jacket doesn’t have a bobbin then you have a manual life jacket. Some boaters thought they had an automatic life jacket when in fact it was a manual jacket and have almost drowned as a result, so make sure and check what your mae west life jacket actually is. People were confused as the manual versions still have a CO₂ cylinder but use the lanyard to puncture the cylinder instead of a bobbin/ pill which will activate the firing pin.
The pill mechanism I just referred to is when a “pill” prevents the firing mechanism from triggering but it disintegrates in water and therefore when the jacket is exposed to water it allows the firing pin to trigger.
CM Hammar Inflator
Another mechanism that is accepted by the USCG for inflatable life jackets is the CM hammar inflator. This mechanism can be found in Mustang hydrostatic life jackets.This system uses a hydro-static valve to detect water pressure and will trigger if submerged more than 4 inches into water. The benefit of this system is that the life jacket will not inflate from just getting wet unlike the other pill/ bobbin systems.
It is important to frequently check and replace components if required. For recreational bobbins Halkey-Roberts recommends changing it every 3 years. However a chemical bobbin can be affected high temperatures and humidity may deteriorate in less than 30 days. However that is very rare as not many boaters use life jackets under extreme conditions so they should last for years. There will be a date of manufacture on the side of the bobbin along with the manufacturer’s shelf life. If a bobbin is used in a commercial marine environment it should be replaced every 2 years. It is important to inspect the bobbin to ensure there are not cracks or discoloring of the white fill and there are “ridges” still evident.
The key to looking after your life jackets is to store them appropriately as it will help to preserve them making them last longer. You should annually inspect the bladder of the life jacket as specified by the manufacturer.
Mustang Survival also provide videos about life jacket care and maintenance which are well worth watching.
U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary Free Vessel Safety Check
With a recent campaign called national safe boating week by the U.S Coast Guard. There was an emphasis on promoting the free vessel safety check that eh Coast Guard Auxiliary offer.
The group of volunteers that try to make the waterway’s a safer place for all concerned offer education and safety checks. The U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary recommends that all kinds of recreational boats should have one of the free vessel safety checks.
The vessel check will help the boats owners to identify potential problems so that they can be corrected and hopefully save lives. The check may even raise issues that go against federal laws and help to put them right before any problems occur. At the end of the check, if your boat passes you will be awarded with a certificate which will help coast Guard boarding officers in completing their tasks as soon as possible if they have to board your boat to carry out their duties. They also offer courses that will help with all aspects of boating such as how to navigate on lakes.
In 2014 the Coast Guard of Auxiliary and Boating reported 610 deaths in the recreational boating. 250 of the boat operators hadn’t taken a safety class which is one reason for such a high figure.
There are a number of qualified organisations that offer boating safety courses and often they will also provide sponsor ship.
If you are interested in taking a boating safety course or making use of any other service offered by the coast guard make sure to download their new U.S Cost Guard Smartphone app. The app has lots of useful information such as: safety equipment checklists, state boating information, free boating safety check requests, navigation rules, float plans and a calling feature if there are any suspicious activities you wish to report. You can also make it so that the app provides you with up to date weather reports from your nearest weather buoys and warns you of any potential hazards in your area.
A rip current also known as a “rip” is a kind of water current that is found near beach fronts. A rip refers to the narrow strong current of water that flows away from the beach. You can find a rip current anywhere there are breaking waves. It is very difficult to predict where the rip will form.
A rip current is formed when breaking waves force water into the shore and forms together creating a feeder current which flows perpendicular to the beach front. The feeder current will then find an area that it can head back out to sea, this is called the neck. A neck tends to be where the water is slightly deeper and is where the flow of water is most rapid. Once the rapid water in the neck reaches a point back out to sea beyond the breaking waves the water loses its power and disperses, this is known as the “head.” Some of this dispersing water may then be taken back into the shore.
The rapid water that you find in these “rips” is very dangerous and is the leading cause of lifeguard rescues. People often try to swim against the rip and find themselves struggling.
How to Identify a Rip
It can be difficult to identify a rip current. However there are a few signs to watch out for that will help you to make an informed decision. Here are a few points to keep an eye out for:
- A channel of choppy water
- Frothy water that has been churned up and heading back out to sea.
- Different colour of water slightly further out than the surf zone.
- Broken wave pattern of incoming waves to the shore.
A rip current may show all of the above or none of them at all. That is what makes them very difficult to predict. On some beaches the lifeguards will put dye in the water to try and identify where potential rip currents are. This then means they can move the swimming zone to a safer location on the beach.
Not matter what activity you are doing whether you are simply swimming or on a rowing boat it is useful to be able identify a rip current and avoid struggling against a rip.
If you find yourself unsure of whether or not there is a rip tide, make sure to ask the lifeguard and they will gladly help you out.