By Mike Werling, Managing editor of Sea Magazine
Memorial Day, the holiday generally accepted as the beginning of boating season, is mere weeks away, and boat owners are busy preparing their vessel for the glorious days of summer ahead. Old standbys, new anchorages, exciting cruises and sedate bobbing at the dock are all on tap. Systems are being tested, through-hulls are being checked, zincs are being replaced, bottoms are being painted, anchors and lines are being inspected and cleaned, electronics are being fired up and tested. The list goes on. And every one of those inspections, checks, tests and procedures is necessary to help ensure a long, fruitful and — most importantly — safe boating season. Safety is something that cannot be overemphasized. To help boaters prepare for safety on the water, National Safe Boating Week runs from May 16-22. Sponsored by the National Safe Boating Council, Safe Boating Week and its attendant Wear It! campaign (safeboatingcampaign.com) are meant to remind boaters that there are inherent potential hazards associated with boating. The campaigns aren’t meant to be a killjoy, because the truth is the potential for a great time far exceeds the potential for incident. What the National Safe Boating Council wants to do is get more people out on the water, but the folks there want everyone to do so in a responsible manner. That’s not too much to ask. While their big push is to get everyone to wear a life jacket, which may seem a bit extreme at the helm of an enclosed pilothouse or securely ensconced on the sofa in the salon, the real message is “Be Safe,” and that’s something every boater can get behind. Think about your own boat. Are your fire extinguishers inspected and ready for action? Do the smoke and CO detectors have fresh batteries? Is your EPIRB operational and registered? If it’s operational but not registered, its effectiveness is severely diminished. Are the life jackets — even if you don’t wear one all the time — functional? If they’ve been stashed in a dark, damp place, they may need a cleaning and possibly an inspection if they’re the kind that inflate on contact with water. Is the VHF radio operational? Sea Tow and BoatUS offer free radio checks in many coastal areas, if you want to be sure.