Last year (2016) the U.S Coast Guard documented 4,463 recreational boating accidents, resulting in 701 deaths, 2,903 injuries and approximately $49 million dollars of damage to property – all due to boat safety.
In 2016, the fatality rates of people killed in recreational boating accidents rose by more than 11% to 5.9 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels (from 5.3 per 100,000 in 2015)
Sadly, here in Maine, the numbers are worse. In 2016, 9 deaths were reported from the 111,116 registered watercraft in the state – a rate of 8.1%.
Now, as temperatures (finally) start warming up, many Portland area boaters will be casting off in boats, dinghies and family-friendly yachts of all types and launching into the waters of Casco Bay, Maine’s lake regions and beyond.
Whether it’s simply to enjoy a brief respite from the heat and humidity or to wet a line with the hopes of hooking a bass, trout or striper, soon thousands of people will escape their otherwise terrestrial existence and enter an environment where different rules apply.
Water: Different world. Different rules for boat safety.
Simply put, staying safe on the water comes down to limiting the possibility of you and your passengers from spending any more time in the water than they are expecting to.
To paraphrase Harvard professor and author Theodore Levitt’s thoughts on business and customer service, “… all other truths on this subject are merely derivative.”
Here are the 8 basic – yet essential – items that boat safety professionals and the U.S. Coast Guard recommend boat owners have on board at all times when venturing out on the water.
- A USCG approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device) for every person on your boat. (Note: If your boat is more than 16’ in length, you must also have a throwable PFD attached to at least 50’ of rope.)
- A manual sounding device such as a whistle or horn.
- A visual distress signal that can be used during the day or night, such as a flag or a flare.
- A fire extinguisher
- A first aid kit in case of injuries that need immediate care.
- An additional, easily accessible length of strong rope (20’+)
- A knife to cut tangles in propeller
- A sufficient supply of drinking water for everyone on board
Before you go, are you sea-worthy?
All Maine boat owners can help insure that their passengers have a safe, enjoyable experience by first becoming familiar with their vessel, the specific body of water that they will be exploring and finally by understanding the marine (weather) forecast for the duration of the trip.
When boat owners show that they are nautically knowledgeable, comfortable with their craft and their surroundings, their passengers are better able to relax and enjoy themselves.
Boat insurance is great. Boating experience is even better.
As you might expect, boat insurance covers the boat owner if the boat is damaged or lost. However, keep in mind that even the best boat insurance in the world can’t replace the loss of a friend or family member.
Typically, motorized watercraft, such as fishing boats, pontoon boats and yachts are covered by boat insurance. Canoes, kayaks and personal watercraft are usually not covered by boat insurance.
Instead, owners of these types of small watercraft can often find some protection from loss in their personal homeowner’s insurance policy. For more information about boat insurance, including cost, coverage and answers to questions such as “Does Boat Insurance Cover Passengers?” please visit the boat insurance FAQ page https://www.trustedchoice.com/boat-insurance/
Be prepared and make your passengers aware
As the venerable Boy Scouts motto of “Be Prepared” has been ingrained in those planning to venture out into the woods, the same sage advice should also be used when heading out on the water in a boat, canoe, kayak or personal watercraft.
Unlike on land, where accidents, mistakes in judgement, illness or injury can often be quickly and easily remedied, being ill-equipped or unprepared on any sized body of water can suddenly escalate a relatively minor mishap into a potentially life-threatening situation.
That’s not to say that boating is inherently a dangerous activity. Time spent on the water can (and should) be a fun, tranquil and exhilarating experience. It only requires a bit more forethought from the boat operator and awareness of potential hazards by his/her passengers.
Learning on land, to be safer at sea
Whether or not you plan to own your own boat or are fortunate enough to have regular access to one, familiarizing yourself with safe boating practices and equipment by taking a boat safety course.
Within a few sessions, students can learn everything from how to tie a safety line, basic rules of navigation to small engine troubleshooting and repair techniques on the water.
A listing of available safe boating courses can be found here. There’s even a mobile app for boat safety from the U.S. Coast Guard that can be downloaded for free. numerous aspects of boating safety, including tips on reading the weather, navigation and more.
For more information about boat insurance, please visit https://www.trustedchoice.com/boat-insurance/coverage-faq/ or contact us at Anderson Watkins Insurance, 207-856-5500.