Memorial Day is upon us and the start of boating season is here. For many boat owners, it’s been a long winter and spring away from the water, which can lead to overlooked safety measures and hurried preparation. To help you avoid a hitch in your opening weekend festivities, here are 10 assumptions you want to avoid and why. Have fun and be safe.
Assumptions to Avoid
1 / There’s fuel in the tanks. REALITY: Don’t rely on your memory with this kind of thinking – I put fuel in the last time I took the boat out, didn’t I – simply take time to check the tank level.
2 / My fuel gauge shows that I have enough fuel to get there and back. REALITY: Fuel gauges should never be 100 percent trusted on boats. Wiring issues alone can cause your fuel gauge to misrepresent the amount of fuel you have. You always want to play the one-third game when it comes to fuel: one-third fuel for trip there, one-third fuel for the trip back and one-third fuel in reserve in case anything happens.
3 / The automatic bilge pumps are working like a champ. REALITY: They might be, but do you really want to take that chance? Check them before you leave the dock. As an added bonus, when you check on them, you can see for yourself if the bilge is dry.
4 / That VHF problem last time out was just a temporary glitch. REALITY: VHF radios can be your only source of communication when offshore, so make sure yours is working before you leave the dock.
5 / The tide is high enough to go outside of the channel markers. REALITY: Sandbars and shoals are constantly changing with shifting currents. Just because you are running your boat during a high tide doesn’t mean you should ever go outside the specific channel markers, which are there to keep you safe and to avoid running your boat aground.
6 / We should have enough life jackets on board stuffed somewhere below the deck. REALITY: The U.S. Coast Guard requires that you have a life jacket for every passenger aboard your vessel. In an emergency, you might not have time to get to the life jackets if they are not placed in an easy-to-reach location. Make sure you know how many life jackets you have on board, ensure that there are enough for all passengers and make sure they are easily accessible in case of an emergency.
7 / I haven’t been playing my radio long enough to kill my battery. REALITY: The radio isn’t the only thing draining your batteries. The bilge pumps might be operating, the bait tanks might be running and your running lights might be on. It’s best to utilize two batteries, and only use one of the batteries when the engine is not running. If you only have one battery, make sure you are checking the power on your boat regularly by turning the engine over to avoid a dead battery.
8 / I have the latest and greatest in GPS and navigation, so I’ll never get lost. REALITY: Some of the new navigation systems are pretty complicated, and it is well worth an afternoon of study before you go out. “Carry a paper chart and know some basic coastline navigation skills,” Carlton said, “because they can be of great value.”
9 / The boat ran great the last I took it out, so it will this time, too. REALITY: Make sure that you keep your engine’s maintenance schedule up to date. Consider a take-along toolbox complete with engine fluids, filters and parts, and backups to other critical parts. Having them can make or break the outing.
10 / The weather looks good, so let’s take the boat for a cruise. REALITY: Weather conditions are constantly changing, so play it safe and check the weather forecast as it relates to your boating excursion.