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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Summer Boating Tips

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy of Pixabay
In most of the country, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is all the time boaters have to maximize their time on the water. In Florida, boaters can pretty much take to the water all year around. That being said, spending time on a boat in July and August in Florida can be tricky, since midday temperatures typically hover in the 90's. Added to the heat, is the other deterrent that Florida boaters face almost daily: thunderstorms. To help you have a safe and enjoyable time afloat this summer, here are some boating tips.

Before You Cast Off
Before you set off for the boat ramp or the marina, there are several things you need to do up front to ensure your boat trip doesn't wind up on the rocks.

1.      Check the weather forecast before you cast off. – Make it a point to tune into the marine forecast before you head to the dock.  This will not only give you some idea of when to expect a passing shower, it will also let you know the state of the wind and the waves, as well as the turn of the tide.  
2.     Dress for success afloat — While those shorts and tank top might turn heads, it can also turn you beet red if you plan on staying on the water all afternoon. Not to mention if your boat has no cabin and a passing squall hoses you down at or after sunset, you could wind up shivering. I always make a point of packing a pair of jeans and a windbreaker or poncho in my sea bag before heading out for a day on the water. In the bag, I also, include a bottle of SPF 50 sunscreen, sunglasses with a lanyard, a towel, a hat with a brim and a Swiss Army knife. Any or all of these can come in handy during an extended boat ride.
Image courtesy of Geograph
3.     Night time is the right time? — If you don't want to roast like a potato in the sun, you might like to try night sailing. After the sun goes down, temperatures tend to drop dramatically, and a sea breeze usually kicks in. This can make boating after sunset a lot more enjoyable during the long hot Florida summer. Cruising at sunset can also offer breathtaking vistas and reduced incidents of thunderstorms. That's the good news. The bad news is the incidence of insects rises as the sun sets. Therefore, make sure you pack plenty of bug spray and a flashlight if you plan to head out at night. Speaking of flashlights, I always make it a point of bringing spare batteries in a zip lock bag. There's nothing worse than needing a light, only to see your flashlight beam dim or go out right when you need it most.
4.     Safety is priority number one — While boating can be a pleasure, it can also be perilous depending on the conditions, the vessel and the experience of the skipper. That being said, when it comes to boating, you should always expect the best but prepare for the worst. That means you need to perform an equipment check as soon as you reach the boat. This includes inspecting everything from the vessel and the engine, to the fuel supply, the radio, and the safety equipment. Always make sure each and every member
of the crew has a PFD. Licensed captains are required to give a safety briefing before their vessel gets underway. This isn't a bad idea for every skipper. Particularly if you have children aboard, you need them to wear a life jacket at all times. The same goes for any adult aboard that doesn't know how to swim. Whether your vessel is a sailboat or a speedboat, a canoe or a kayak, all it takes to min your voyage is to have a crewmember wind up going overboard. At least/if they're wearing a PFD, their chance of surviving the event is ten times greater than If they don't.
It's All Fun Until Somebody Gets Hurt
Image courtesy of wikimedia
Your boat may represent a source of adventure to you, to your crew it also represents a hazard. Everything on a boat is potentially dangerous. Lines, fenders, and fishing poles can easily trip up or tangle up crew members. Fuel cans and engines can catch fire. I once had a passenger on a sailboat accidentally lop off the tip of his forefinger when he carelessly leaned on the hatch combing, causing it to slide shut like a guillotine. I have had other crew get jerked into the water by a dock line as we were tying up a vessel. The bottom line is, it's up to the skipper to keep a weather eye on crew and passengers alike. Make sure you tell them what they shouldn't touch and where they shouldn't go aboard your boat. Last? but not least, make sure you have a substantial first aid kit because help could be far away if and when someone aboard injures themselves.
The second most important task for any skipper is to keep a weather eye on other boaters.  As I mentioned at the start of this blog, northern boaters only have a 3-month window to enjoy their time on the water.  This makes them much less seasoned than southern boaters.  Take special care when approaching or tying off to a dock that you have your fenders deployed.  On more than one occasion, I have had to fend off other boats because their skippers failed to factor in the current or approached the dock with the current astern.  A friend of mine summed up boating as being hours of enjoyment interspersed with moments of sheer panic.  
Image courtesy of Pxhere
If you venture onto the water at night, make sure you turn on your navigation and steaming lights. Also, make sure you have a familiarity with the lights displayed by other boats. This will let you know whether an approaching vessel is a sailboat, a pleasure craft, or a tugboat, barge or freighter. Make sure you're also familiar with marker lights and local lighted landmarks. Even if you know your local waters like the back of your hand, when venturing out after dark you need to slow down. The term "Speed Kills" goes doubly after dark. Making one mistake while reading a chart or misinterpret a buoy at night could quickly spell disaster.
Expect the best but prepare for the worst — Spend enough time on the water, and it' s inevitable that your engine will conk out or your vessel will spring a leak. Dealing with such things is what separates seasoned skippers from the rest. If the engine conks out, do you know where the anchor is stored and how to set it? Did you test the bilge pump at the dock, or will you wind up finding out it doesn't work should the boat spring a leak or take on water during a squall? Are you familiar with the procedure for contacting the Coast Guard or Sea Tow? Do you know how to perform CPR should a passenger or crew member have a heart attack? Did you bring enough food and water to last your crew until the next day should you get stranded? Just as you wouldn't want an airline pilot who only graduated from flight school yesterday to take you on a cross-country flight, nobody wants a skipper who doesn't know his vessel from a hole in the water.
Catherine Powell is owner of A Plus All Florida Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about boat insurance, check out her website at

1 comment:

  1. Boating can be lots of fun, however it also require a high level of responsibility and planning to keep it fun. This article is spot on with its tips.


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