Sold on Safety

QuestionI’m a safety conscious boater but also a bit frugal. How can I improve the safety of my family and crew without endangering my wallet?

Lloyd F., via

AnswerSafety doesn’t always have to be expensive. There are a number of no-cost options to make your fun on the water safer. Start by conducting a pre-departure safety brief before each trip — especially with new folks aboard. Cover the basics, such as the location of safety equipment — fire extinguishers, life jackets, first aid kit, etc. — but don’t be afraid to include additional topics, such as use of the VHF radio. Post a diagram of the vessel that shows where everything is, from seacocks to fire extinguishers.

Another free idea? Safety drills. Nothing can prepare you and your crew for an emergency better than regular safety drills. Draft basic instructions for events such as a fire, a man overboard (MOB) situation or a sinking, and discuss safety equipment location and procedures with everyone aboard. Assign roles and responsibilities to crewmembers where appropriate and make sure all passengers know what’s expected of them in an emergency. Mix it up a bit to make drills more interesting and to better prepare for those “out of the box” situations (e.g., the captain as the MOB). Don’t forget to include younger crewmembers, too. Teaching your 10-year-old child how to make a distress call instills confidence and may even save your life!

Finally, another safety freebie would be filing a float plan. From a safety standpoint, letting a responsible person on shore know where you’ll be boating and when you plan on returning is a no-brainer. A float plan not only ensures that search-and-rescue agencies are notified in a timely manner in the event of an emergency but also speeds up response times by narrowing down the search area. Free float plan forms are available for download at Float Plan Central ( Make sure the information provided is both detailed and accurate. You’ll also want to avoid last-minute on-the-water changes.

Don’t switch your boating destinations, the launch ramp you’re going to use, etc., unless you can contact and update the person who’s maintaining your float plan ashore. — FL


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