Safe fall boating
Autumn’s arrival doesn’t mean the boating season has to end, but shorter days and cooler temperatures require boaters to take extra precautions to ensure safe fall boating.
- Update your charts. Local authorities may pull aids to navigation like channel markers and buoys as early as October in some areas. With fall’s shorter days, you could wind up cruising home after dark, making even familiar landmarks hard to spot. Make sure your charts—electronic and paper—are up to date so you can use them to navigate instead of visual aids.
- Check nav lights and flares. Make sure your boat’s navigation lights are working and your emergency flares aren’t expired. Carry a few waterproof flashlights onboard to help you unload passengers and gear after dark. Be sure to stock spare batteries.
- Make sure your VHF is working. Waterways are less crowded during fall. While peaceful, this also means that you might not see another boater who could help if you have a problem. You can use your VHF radio to call for help where your cell phone has no signal.
- Gas up before you go. With fewer boats on the water, some fuel docks may close early during autumn. Don’t assume you can fill up at your destination for the return trip home.
- Wear a life jacket. As water temperatures get cooler, boaters falling overboard run an increased risk of hypothermia. By law, children under 13 must wear a life jacket when the boat is underway, but it’s a good idea for adults to wear them too, especially at night. Purchase life jackets with lights attached so rescuers can find you in the water. Make sure your life jacket fits over bulky jackets and sweatshirts.
- Keep an eye on the weather. Autumn storms can approach swiftly and often seem more menacing than summer rain showers. Boaters can use apps on their smartphones to get up-to-date weather forecasts, as well as tide and navigation information. You can also call for help with the swipe of a finger.
–Sea Tow Foundation
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