boating trip should be fun, safe and hassle-free. Before heading out make
sure your vessel is in good working order and properly equipped. Start
with an inspection of the hull: look for cracks or other damage. If your
vessel is equipped with an engine, check that the throttle is operating
smoothly and is not sticking or binding. Verify that the steering is operating
properly. Check the oil and fuel levels - a good rule of thumb for fuel
is: one-third for the trip out, one-third for the return, and one-third
as reserve. Check hoses, clamps and belts. Check the battery's charge
and its fluid levels. Remember to verify that the drainage plug is in
place before setting off.
What is the weather forecast?
Any local hazards or boating restrictions?
Do you have maps or charts?
Are there enough personal flotation devices of appropriate size for everyone
All safety equipment in good working order?
Ample reserves of fuel for the trip or will you need to refuel?
Is your VHF radio working properly?
First aid kit, basic tools and spare parts?
Have you let someone know where you're going, when to expect you back
and what your boat looks like?
Is your drainage plug in place?
Being prepared goes beyond having your boat and equipment in tip-top shape.
Check your marine charts to determine whether you will be encountering
any overhead obstacles, bridges or underwater cables in the area where
you will be boating. Reading marine charts with related publications such
as Sailing Directions, and Tide Tables and Current Atlases will help you
safely plan your trip by indicating water levels, times of low, slack
and high tides, and the direction of flow.
Understanding weather and water conditions is a key aspect of boating
safely. Boaters need to know how to obtain current, relevant information
before they head out. They also need to know how to get updates while
out on the water, which requires the knowledge and skill to use a marine
radio. A receiver for continuous marine weather forecasts is also available,
and it is distributed through marine supply outlets. When you get to the
water, make sure the conditions you see match those predicted. Once under
way, remember to "keep your eye on the sky." If the sky looks
dark and cloudy and conditions are changing rapidly, head for shore (check
your charts in advance to know where to seek shelter). Summer thunderstorms
can strike quickly and unexpectedly. Other good indications of approaching
bad weather are falling barometric pressure, increasing winds and changes
in wind direction, which generally lead to increased wave action.
Light winds are winds less than 12 knots.
Moderate winds are in the range of 12-19 knots.
Strong winds are sustained wind speeds in the range of
Small craft warnings are issued when sustained wind speeds
are expected in the range of 20-33 knots.
Gale force wind warnings are issued when sustained wind
speeds are expected in the range of 34-47 knots
Storm force wind warnings are issued when sustained wind
speeds are expected in the range of 48-63 knots.
Hurricane force wind warnings are issued when sustained
wind speeds reach 64 knots or more.