5 Safety Tips Every Yacht Owner Must Know

While our waterways may not be as populated as our roadways, there are still dangers lurking on the world’s lakes and oceans. General safety rules have been established for every situation and, in many cases, those rules are similar to those we employ on the street. By learning some basic safety precautions, one’s time on the water can be spent indulging in safe fun instead of facing a potentially life-threatening situation for which you may be unprepared.
Prepare for Unexpected Storms
It goes without saying that yachting enthusiasts should be aware of weather patterns for the periods they intend to spend on the water. Checking weather reports may not be enough, however. Every season presents a unique set of conditions in which sudden shifts in weather patterns can create unexpected storms or rough waters. It’s wise to bring a battery-operated radio for monitoring changing conditions. Additionally, take a cue from nature. Lightning flashes, choppy water, or shifting winds may be your cue to dock your vessel early.
Ensure Your Yacht is Loaded with Proper Safety Equipment
There’s no telling when an accident will happen, or what conditions will be present, so it’s best to be prepared for every foreseeable eventuality. This means ensuring your vessel is up to date with working fire extinguishers and is stocked with enough U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for every occupant of the vessel. The Coast Guard also recommends bringing along a throwable device, when the vessel is 16 feet or longer.
Additionally, ensure the yacht is stocked with a minimum of emergency supplies, including at least one each of the following: cell phone, paper maps, flares, and first aid kit.
Life Jackets Should Always be Worn
It’s not enough that the yacht is stocked with a personal flotation device for each person. Life jackets should be worn at all times, as emergencies, by their very nature, can’t be predetermined. While adults are recommended to wear their life jackets at all times, many areas require that children under the age of 13 follow this rule.
In incidents in which boating accidents have resulted in deaths, the recovered victims were found not wearing their life jackets. For this reason, stocking extra personal flotation devices is also highly recommended.
Education is Key
It’s not enough for the person piloting the yacht to be well-versed in boating safety procedures and the rules of the waterways. Everyone in the family should attend boater education courses and should be practiced in operating the vessel. In 52% of boating accidents, those involved were between the ages of 26-50.
Also, those operating the boat should be aware of the universally accepted 50 foot rule. Under this safety rule, the vessel should be kept a minimum of 50 feet from any other PWCs (personal watercrafts), vessels, persons, shore, stationary platform, or other object. The exception to this rule is when the vessel is sitting idle.
Use Common Sense in Regard to Speed
It’s generally accepted that speed is left to the discretion of the vessel operator. Even though there are no posted speed limits, the Coast Guard or local authorities may cite operators for traveling too fast in populated areas or operating the vessel recklessly. Generally, the yacht operator is expected to use good judgment and common sense in determining a safe speed for his vessel, especially in areas that may be populated with swimmers, other vessels, and divers.
A speed is considered excessive in circumstances where it will prevent the operator from bringing the vessel to a stop within the limits of a cleared distance. Additionally, speeds that indicate negligence in regard to hazardous conditions are considered unsafe and excessive.
While there are many more safety restrictions for boaters, these five rules cover the most important aspects for using a personal watercraft. Whether on the water for travel or just for leisure, it’s important to follow recommended safety protocols and develop a few rules of your own, based on your own experiences on the water. Staying safe on the water requires a mindful attitude and the same diligence that one employs in traveling on the streets and highways in our cities.
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