Friday, January 23, 2009


As the operator and or owner of a vessel you are responsible not only for the prudent and safe operation of your boat, but also for the lives and safety of your passengers and others around you. Become familiar with Federal, State, and local rules and regulations regarding safe boat operation and try to learn all aspects of good seamanship such as boat handling, navigation and piloting, weather, communications.

Your water fun depends on you, your equipment and other people who, like yourself, enjoy spending leisure time on, in or near the water. Let's take a look at your responsibilities:

1. File a float plan with a relative or friend.
2. Make sure the boat is in top operating condition and that there are no tripping hazards. The boat should be free of fire hazards and have clean bilges.
3. Safety equipment, required by law, is on board, maintained in good condition, and you know how to properly use these devices.
4. Have a complete knowledge of the operation and handling characteristics of your boat.
5. Know your position and know where you are going.
6. Maintain a safe speed and proper lookout at all times to avoid collision.
7. Keep an eye out for changing weather conditions, and act accordingly.
8. Know and practice the Rules of the Road (Navigational Rules).
9. Know and obey Federal and state regulations and waterway markers.
10. Maintain a clear, unobstructed view forward at all times. "Scan" the water back and forth, avoid "tunnel" vision.
Most boating collisions are caused by inattention. You are the key to water safety.

In the U.S. there are more than 2,500 boat manufacturers that produce more than 4,000 different boat models which are powered by a variety of outboard, stern drive, and inboard engines. Because of the great variety, choosing the right boat can be confusing, but the right choice is an important step in enjoying the nations waterways. In selecting the right boat for your needs, consider the type of activity for which you plan to use it, such as water skiing, fishing, cruising, or weekend outings. You need to consider the type of water on which it will be used, such as lakes, rivers, open ocean, or the Great Lakes. The boat should be large enough to handle the number of people on a normal outing.

Never overload your boat with passengers and cargo beyond its safe carrying capacity. Too many people and/or gear will cause the boat to become unstable. Always balance the load so that the boat maintains proper trim. Here are some things to remember when loading your boat:
1. Distribute the load evenly fore and aft and from side to side.
2. Keep the load low.
3. Keep passengers seated (Do not stand up in a small boat).
4. Fasten gear to prevent shifting.
5. Do not exceed the "U.S. Coast Guard Maximum Capacities" information label (called the Capacity plate).
6. If there is no Capacity Plate, use the following chart as a guide to determine the maximum number of persons you can safely carry in calm weather. The chart is applicable only to mono-hull boats less than 20ft in length. A mono-hull is a boat, which makes a single "footprint" in the water when loaded to its rated capacity. For example, a catamaran, trimaran, or a pontoon boat is not a mono-hull boat. Many hunters and anglers do not think of themselves as boaters, but use small semi-v hull vessels, flat bottom jonboats or canoes to pursue their sports. These boats tend to be unstable and easily capsize. Capsizings, sinkings, and falls overboard from small boats account for about 70% of boating fatalities and these facts mean you must have a greater awareness of the boat's limitations and the skill and knowledge to overcome them. Standing in a small boat raises the center of gravity, often to the point of capsizing. Standing for any reason or even changing position in a small boat can be dangerous, as is sitting on the gunwales or seat backs or on a pedestal seat while underway. A wave or sudden turn may cause a fall overboard or capsizing because of the raised center of gravity.

Anchoring is done for two principal reasons: first, to stop for fishing, swimming, lunch, or an overnight stay and secondly, to keep you from running aground in bad weather or as a result of engine failure. Anchoring can be a simple task if you follow these guidelines:
1. Make sure you have the proper type of anchor (danforth/plow/mushroom).
2. A three to six foot length of galvanized chain should be attached to the anchor. The chain will stand up to the abrasion of sand, rock or mud on the bottom much better than a fiber line.
3. A suitable length of nylon anchor line should be attached to the end of the chain (this combination is called the "Rode"). The nylon will stretch under heavy strain cushioning the impact of the waves or wind on the boat and the anchor.
4. Select an area that offers maximum shelter from wind, current and boat traffic.
5. Determine depth of water and type of bottom (preferably sand or mud).
6. Calculate the amount of anchor line you will need. General rule: 5 to 7 times as much anchor line as the depth of water plus the distance from the water to where the anchor will attach to the bow. For example, if the water depth is 8 feet and it is 2 feet from the top of water to your bow cleat, you would multiply 10 feet by 5 to 7 to get the amount of anchor line to put out.
7. Secure the anchor line to the bow cleat at the point you want it to stop.
8. Bring the bow of the vessel into the wind or current.
9. When you get to the spot you want to anchor, place the engine in neutral.
10. When the boat comes to a stop, slowly lower the anchor. Do not throw the anchor over as it tends to entangle the anchor line.
11. When all anchor line has been let out, back down on the anchor with engine in idle reverse to help set the anchor.
12. When anchor is firmly set, use reference points (landmarks) in relation to the boat to make sure you are not drifting. Check these points frequently. Do not anchor by the Stern. Anchoring a small boat by the stern has caused many to quickly capsize and sink. The transom is usually squared off and has less freeboard than the bow. In a current, the force of the water can pull the stern under. The boat is also vulnerable to swamping by wave action. The weight of a motor, fuel tank, or other gear in the stern increases the risk.

Most fires and explosions happen during or after fueling. To prevent an accident, follow these rules:
1. Portable tanks should be refueled ashore.
2. Close all hatches and other openings before fueling.
3. Extinguish all smoking materials.
4. Turn off engines, all electrical equipment, radios, stoves and other appliances.
5. Remove all passengers.
6. Keep the fill nozzle in contact with the tank and wipe up any spilled fuel.
7. Open all ports, hatches and doors to ventilate.
8. Run the blower for at least four minutes.
9. Check the bilges for fuel vapors before starting the engine.
10. Do the "sniff test". Sniff around to make sure there is no odor of gasoline anywhere in the boat. Do not start the engine until all traces of fuel vapors are eliminated.

Fuel Management
Practice the "One-Third Rule" by using:
1. One-third of the fuel going out
2. One-third to get back and
3. One-third in reserve