Whether your last trip on the water was last year or last weekend, inspect your boat for damage and check all the equipment to make sure it is in peak condition. Locate the life vests – one for each boater – and inspect them for broken straps or other damage, replacing as needed. Have a standard checklist of items that need attention and don't boat unless the checklist is complete.
Riding the waters is much more enjoyable and safe when the weather is sunny and clear. Avoid taking your boat out in electrical storms or foggy conditions. Boat only in daylight and have flashlights and boat lights ready in the case you get stuck in the dark. Pack extra warm clothing and blankets in case the weather turns or night falls. Don't forget sunscreen and clothing that will keep you from getting sunburned.
No one expects to lose control of their vessel, but if you happen to get stranded on the water or land-bound in a secluded area, having water and food on hand can calm the kids and ensure you are nourished enough until help comes.
Leave a float plan at the marina or with family or friends so someone knows where you are going and when you plan to be back. Teach your kids about the boat. While you are loading up in preparation for the water and during your boating adventure, teach your kids boat safety and operation. This may come in handy if something happens to you and you can't navigate. In addition, have an action plan if an emergency does occur, such as the boat sinking or someone going overboard.
Ideally your family should know how to swim before going on the water; for those members who don't, require them to wear a life vest at all times. Steer clear of other boats, jet skis, water skiers and swimmers. Be aware of the water's depth and look out for obstacles, such as rocks or stumps. Heed buoys and water restrictions, and go at a speed that is safe for whatever area you are in. If the boat starts acting odd or the weather takes a turn for the worse, get back to shore.
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