ANNAPOLIS, Md., June 27, 2016 – This July 4 holiday weekend there will be more recreational boaters on the water than at any other time of year, according to Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS). With almost 12 million registered boats across the country, that could mean waterway gridlock, especially after fireworks shows end and boaters head home. This is not the night to see who can get back to the launch ramp first, and like grandma said, patience is a virtue. Here are five tips — tailored to the specific safety needs for America’s birthday weekend:
1. Wait to celebrate with alcohol: It could be a long day on the water, but waiting until after you’ve returned to home port for the night before celebrating with alcohol is a wise move. Added to the sun, wind and waves, alcohol lowers your situational awareness and increases reaction times.
2. Get a kids’ life jacket for free: Before you think about putting Junior in an adult-sized life jacket for the weekend, here’s a better plan: Go to the BoatUS Foundation’s Kids’ Life Jacket Loaner site to find a life jacket loaner site near you, where you can borrow a right-sized child’s life jacket for the day, afternoon, or weekend. It’s free.
3. Don’t overload your boat. Seems like everyone wants to be on a boat July 4, but how many is too many? If there’s no capacity plate to tell you, one sure sign is standing room-only, a sight sometimes seen where boats gather. One general rule of thumb is that everyone should have a seat inside the boat, and keep in mind that passengers moving around, along with a boat carrying extra coolers and gear, can make your boat less stable.
4. Avoid the two biggest problems. The 600-plus-vessel TowBoatUS on–water towing fleet reports hundreds of battery jumps and anchor line disentanglements on July 4 – the most for any single day of the year. To avoid having to call BoatUS’ 24-hour dispatch, keep an eye on your battery drain all day, go slow while hauling anchor line and be super vigilant so you don’t run over someone else’s.
5. Be a safe paddler: Paddlers should understand all nautical rules of the road. A glow stick tied around the neck does not substitute for approved navigation lights and is dangerous. Practice defensive paddling and assume no one can see you. Try to avoid crowded anchorages or congested ramp areas, and it’s safest to pass astern of other vessels and let them cross in front of you.
Improve your knowledge – and get a discount on your boat insurance – by taking a free online boating safety course anytime at BoatUS.org.