For many of us who live on the South Shore, warm weather is boating season. A fast ride in a boat — or a relaxed, daylong excursion — can be thrilling, or peaceful and carefree, but only if we take precautions to ensure that the experience is also a safe one.
Boaters average only 110 hours on the water per year, so it’s prudent for even the most experienced among us to adhere to some simple rules that will help guarantee that an outing on the water is fun and trouble-free.
First off, everyone aboard a boat should know how to swim, including children. In our area, swimming lessons are offered to kids and adults by the American Red Cross, taught by certified instructors at a variety of county, town and village pools. The summer instructional schedule at the Nassau County Aquatic Center, in Eisenhower Park, can be found at www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/parks/wheretogo/recreation/aquatic/SwimLessons.html.
Always check local weather conditions before you depart on even a short boat trip, and make sure more than one person onboard is familiar with all aspects of the boat’s handling and operations. Let at least one landlubber family member or friend know the details of your itinerary.
Some other tips to ensure a safe experience on the water include:
• Take a boating course. Beginners and experts alike need to be familiar with boating safety and the rules of operation. Boater education requirements vary by state. Some require validated completion of at least one boating safety course (see box). In addition to the state, the U.S. Power Squadrons also offer classes. For more information, go to usps.org.
• Don’t drink and boat. Boating Under the Influence, or BUI, is illegal in every state. The use of alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment — the motion of the water, engine noise and vibration, sun, wind and spray — accelerates a drinker’s impairment.