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Safe Boating Tips for Children and Families

Does a wave of anticipation wash over you before each day on the water? With boat safety training and a little common sense, you can relax on the water knowing that you’re prepared for the unexpected.

Avoid Boating Accidents With a Coast Guard Safety Inspection

Free of charge, the U.S. Coast Guard offers Vessel Safety Checks performed on your boat. And you can schedule it to occur either on the pier at your marina or on the trailer in your driveway. It’s a great way to ensure that your boat is in compliance with federal and state boating laws. Make sure you do it every year. They’ll verify that your boat has for the following items and credentials:

  • Life Jackets
  • Registration and numbering
  • Navigation lights
  • Ventilation
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Distress signals (flares, horn, etc.)
  • Battery cover and connections

How to Find Peace of Mind When Boating in Open Water

Knowing how to avoid boating accidents and having a plan if something does happen will give all your passengers peace of mind. That all starts with thorough training, careful preparation and our safety tips.

Complete a state-approved boating safety and licensing course. Before hitting the water, enroll in an online boating course that gets you up to speed on state laws.

Teach your kids how to swim before boating. Enroll you kids in swimming lessons. Remember, this is different than swimming in a pool — there’s no current or undertow indoors. So be sure they train on a beach or in a safe area where you’ll be boating. Teach them to float, tread water and stay by the shore.

Pick up NTSB-certified life jackets. Be sure young kids are properly-fitted in NTSB life jackets before they get on your boat. They should wear a life jacket any time they’re near the water.

Have the kids make the “touchdown” signal with the life jacket on. If the shoulders of the jacket lift and touch the kid’s ears, tighten the straps or select a smaller size jacket so it fits snugly. Tether a safety whistle to each child’s vest and teach them how to use it. Also, verify that you’ve got enough life jackets for all adults on board before sailing.

Check the drain plug prior to launch. After getting your boat out of the water, you likely pulled the drain plug and let water drain out right at the public access launch site. Be sure that all drain plugs are installed before you launch and it’s a good idea to keep a spare in the glove box too.

Be prepared for wind and sun. A sunny 66 degree day can feel great on the shore, but cruising at 20 knots for half an hour can get chilly. Keep kids safe and comfortable in a light windproof jacket before fitting them with their life vest. Pack wide-brimmed hats and plenty of sunscreen too — reapply frequently.

Install a weather app on your smartphone. Before hitting the water, be sure that you’ll get weather updates and warnings as they’re issued by the National Weather Service. Apps like AccuWeather and DarkSky offer users notifications when bad weather is nearby. Check local conditions and forecasts before you depart for the water.

Carry accurate nautical maps. Even though you may have an app for that, nothing beats a physical and accurate nautical map of the area you’ll be boating in. And it’s even smarter to chart the waters you’ll be traveling before you go so you’ll know where the trouble spots are. If not, should your battery fail, you may not have the information you need to keep your boat from running into trouble.

Learning CPR is key. Download a CPR training app or take a close look online at CPR videos. Knowing what to do — when moments count — can save a life.

Alcohol and Water Don’t Mix.
Boat-related accidents occur at much higher rates when alcohol is onboard. Leave the drinks behind and stay safe on the water.

Safe Boating Starts With Common Sense

Now that you’ve got the safety basics down, review these common sense ideas and extra precautions to help keep everyone on the boat safe.

Install carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure that carbon monoxide isn’t building up in your cabin. Be sure that all enclosed areas are ventilated and remember to reposition the boat so that riders avoid exhaust fumes when idling.

Use a depth finder. One of the best ways to avoid obstacles hidden underwater is to reference a depth finder when boating. Many on the market today display video details in high resolution and tell you where the fish are hiding, too!

Emergency preparedness is key. Be sure you’ve got air horns, emergency flares and fire extinguishers mounted in a clearly-visible area. Train your crew how to use the radio, call for help and send a distress signal.

Designate a second in command. It’s important to have another person on board that’s fully trained and ready-to-pilot if you or the primary person’s unable to.

Create a pre-boating checklist. Write up an itemized list of everything you need for the boat and review it before you head out. Be sure to include safety precautions, necessary items and don’t forget food, snacks and drinks.

Check your fuel and fluids. Remember to top off your fuel before heading out into the water. Look at the motor oil levels and peek at the coolant, filling as necessary prior to disembarking.

Pack a good toolbox. Make a list of the go-to tools you’re going to need to make quick repairs and get those into a waterproof toolbox you can keep on the boat.

Think about docking and anchoring now. Be sure your anchor is tethered to the boat, and it’s readily available for use. Carry extra dock lines and be sure to have a couple extra fenders on board for docking while you’re away.

Inspect the batteries. Verify the selector switch is properly positioned when two-battery charging’s in play. Pack spare batteries for handheld items like flashlights and portable navigational devices.

Don’t forget to have a blast! The memories you make boating with the kids and family can last a lifetime. While you’re working on getting your boat ready for the water, check in with your American Family Insurance agent. Finding the right protection for your boat can really help to bring peace of mind, knowing that your big investment is carefully insured.

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Related Topics: On The Road , Recreational