junedays founder Nicole Verspyck weighs in, noting that if you’re a longtime boat operator, it’s easy to forget that people are new to your boat. She says to always give passengers a simple safety rundown, showing everyone where life jackets are and a quick intro to the boat. Boat owners should all take a boat safety class before inviting people on board, ideally a program that includes CPR training, as anything can happen.
The larger the body of water, the more important it is to have a foolproof means of communication. Nicole’s second tip is to have a backup plan in case cell phones die or tech fails; a two-way radio is a wonderful option for that. Also important to have on board is a whistle or other communication device for man overboard alerts, a fire extinguisher in case of an onboard fire, and paddles & a grappling hook in the event of an engine failure. It's also essential to have a readily accessible flotation device for an overboard emergency. Also be sure to look into towing services in case your boat stops working properly – AAA, Boat US, and Sea Tow offer excellent services and each are a good value.
In addition to having the right materials and sharing your plan with passengers, it's important to have your own safety priorities. Make sure that children 12 years old and under wear lifejackets when the boat is operating at all times; only when the boat is anchored and there is adult supervision may they remove them.
Another tip from Nicole is if something flies off your boat, no matter how important (phone, keys, wallet), do NOT have a knee jerk reaction. Cut the throttle slowly and turn the boat around to get the object. Getting hit by other boats or not seeing someone in the water is a significant risk and not worth death or injury. Always make sure there’s stable access for getting into and off the boat, and always do a headcount before starting up the motors.
We spoke with Captain Boomies to get her professional expertise on ocean boating safety.
Kate’s specialty is teaching docking – something new boaters often struggle with. Her first lesson is to slow down. The slower the speed the better while docking, since the aim is to rotate your boat to fit into a specific position.
Kate also teaches how best to approach ocean boating solo. She noted that you need a “Float Plan” - someone always has to know where you are and what your ETA is. It’s imperative that you have a form of communication to check in on weather, sea state conditions, and any emergencies going on in your area.
We also asked the Captain about safety tools, and she noted that you should have two options: one for communication over 30 ft. and one for under 30 ft.
For over 30 ft., the AIS (Automatic Identification System) is one of her favorites. This will allow vessels in your area to identify your boat if you broadcast a signal. In turn, you can see other vessels and broadcast signals to them if needed.
For communicating in the range of 30 ft. and under, Kate notes that “VHF radio is so, so important – it’s your best way to contact help when you’re out of cell range. Knowing how to use it and not being afraid of it is crucial.” A handheld radio is great in case of an overboard emergency. You can clip it to yourself and still have the ability to call for help from the water.
Whether on the lake or open sea, we hope these tips give you the confidence to set sail.