Boating Safety Tips
There’s something universal about that feeling that comes with being on the water. Whether you’re going solo in a skiff, heading out for the afternoon on a yacht or trying out a personal watercraft for the first time, there’s a sense of anticipation that comes with each voyage. No matter how many trips you have under your belt, though, it’s best to freshen up on boat safety.
Check If Your LED Lighting Causes Radio Interference
Test your radio and communications devices to make sure they are in proper working order and not affected by any potential interference caused by LED lighting. According to a recent alert from the U.S. Coast Guard, LED lighting can cause electromagnetic interference, or EMI, which can result in poor reception on VHF frequencies. This can complicate efforts to communicate, which is especially dangerous in case of emergency.
It’s an issue that hasn’t garnered a lot of attention, so maritime radio users might not be aware that LED lighting can interfere with their radio. “We want to raise awareness about this potential impact on communications,” said Todd Shasha, Managing Director of Personal Insurance at Travelers. Testing communications devices in combination with LED lights can help alert boaters to a potential issue before an emergency. The Coast Guard recommends five steps to help test for the presence of LED interference:
- Turn off LED lights
- Tune the VHF radio to a quiet channel
- Adjust the VHF radio’s squelch control until the radio outputs audio noise
- Re-adjust the VHF radio’s squelch control until the audio noise is quiet, only slightly above the noise threshold
- Turn on the LED lights. If the radio now outputs audio noise, then the LED lights have raised the noise floor. If the radio does not output audio noise, then the LED lights have not raised the noise audio floor.
If the noise floor is found to have been raised, according to the U.S. Coast Guard bulletin, it is likely that LED lighting is interfering with both shipboard VHF marine radio and AIS reception.
Before Setting Out on Your Boat
Ensure that your boat and/or personal watercraft is operating properly before heading out onto the water. Follow this pre-departure checklist to help you avoid any potential problems.
- Share your float plan with a friend or relative. Be sure to include your destination and expected time of return.
- Check fuel levels and add as necessary.
- Check your engine. For in-board engines, open the hatch to look for fuel or fluid (oil, coolant, etc.) leakage or excess water in the bilge, or the lowest section inside of a boat. For outboard engines, check the fuel system for leaks or heavy gas odor. Excessive fuel vapors from either engine type can be a sign of a serious problem.
- Ensure all lights are functioning and in place.
- Check for any electrical issues such as loose, disconnected or corroded conductors.
- Test radio/communications devices.
- Run blowers to evacuate fumes and vapors from the bilge prior to starting your engine.
- Attach your boat and vehicle keys to a floating bobber.
- Check the local weather, sea reports and boating forecasts. As the operator of the boat, you have a responsibility to pay attention to the weather and should not head out if adverse conditions are expected.
- Have an emergency/evacuation plan in place, and go over it with your passengers.
- Review the vessel’s controls, location of personal flotation devices and location of fire extinguishers with your passengers.
What to Take Aboard
No matter how careful you, your passengers and fellow boaters may be, accidents can still happen. In the event of an incident, you should always have these items with you while you are out on your boat:
- Boat certificate and registration.
- Towing policy paperwork (if you have one).
- Personal flotation device (PFD) —with protective packaging removed—for each passenger.
- Charged and functioning fire extinguisher.
- Fully-stocked boating emergency/survival kit.
Staying Safe on the Water
Having a good time while out on the water includes getting everyone back to shore safely. Whether you are navigating or just along for the ride, everyone plays a critical role in boating safety. Be sure you and your passengers practice these safe boating behaviors on every outing:
- Do not exceed the number of passengers safely allowed on your vessel.
- Make sure all passengers remain in their proper, seated positions on the boat while it is in motion.
- Children should wear a PFD at all times – this is required by law in some states, so be sure to check local laws, rules and regulations. Adults should consider wearing them as well, and at a minimum, they should be readily available.
- Shut off the engine while passengers are loading and unloading for recreational activities such as tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding and swimming.
- Monitor gauges at the helm (voltage, temperature, fuel) to help promote safe operation and identify any issues as soon as possible.
- Be aware of your surroundings, like water conditions and other vessels, to help you react to any potential dangers in a timely manner.
- The primary and backup operator (if you have one) should abstain from consuming any alcoholic beverages prior to or during the outing.
Follow these safe boating tips and practices to help ensure you, your passengers and your boat return from each outing in good form. In addition to boating safety, be sure your investment in your boat or other personal watercraft is appropriately protected.
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