Crew and Passenger Responsibilities … For the most part, recreational boating is about fun and relaxation on the water while enjoying the company of family and friends. Activities can range from cruising toward a vacation destination to engaging in water-sports while rafting up with friends in a scenic cove. However, and regardless of your chosen itinerary, everyone on-board has a responsibility to stay alert, and to keep a sharp lookout. Doing this will help ensure that all onboard enjoy their day, avoid accidents, and return to port safely.
Anyone Can Become a Safe Boater … Each year thousands of people are injured while boating, hundreds die, and tens of millions of dollars are spent on collision repairs. The unfortunate truth is that most of these events could have been avoided through the use of proper situational awareness techniques. The question then becomes what situations should an alert boater be on the lookout for? Boating Safety Classes are the Place to Learn … Currently, 44 States mandate that a person operating a boat must have passed a safe boating class. The remaining six states recommend them. Classes can be attended in person, or taken online. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary and America’s Boating Club offer in person classes. On-line courses can be found through the link included in the Helpful Resources section within Captain Stormalong’s Tall Tales Blog. www.boatopsandsafety.com/stormalongsblog
Utilize Pre-Underway Briefings … My guess is that few recreational boaters make it a point to conduct pre-underway briefings before leaving the dock. However, it is a recognize leading practice to do so. The purpose of such briefings is to make sure that family and friends on board have a clear understanding of day’s activities. The Skipper will lead the discussion by encouraging everyone to stay alert throughout the day, and he or she will make sure all aboard know where lifejackets, life rings, throwable cushions, and fire extinguishers are. The Skipper might also talk about the risks associated with planned activities and discuss how they can be avoided. For example, if you are water skiing or wake boarding someone will be asked to watch the person(s) being towed. Another task might be to keep an eye out for boats that are approaching from port, starboard or astern. If a boat is spotted creating a large wake, the spotter will be asked to loudly yell out the word “WAKE” to make sure everyone is aware that the boat may begin to rock and roll. The Skipper can then make adjustments to speed and course from the helm. The same is true for waves.
Lend a Hand when Docking, Mooring, Rafting Up, and Anchoring … Every recreational Skipper I know appreciates a helping hand. Relative to these hands, be aware that jewelry is a catch hazard on a boat. Leaving ALL jewelry home is recommended. Helpful tasks to consider when docking are rigging fenders, handling a boat hook, heaving a line, and calling out distances from neighboring boats or the dock’s end. Yell out “Clear” when the stern is beyond the dock’s end. Before mooring, ask if you can assist in grabbing the loop on the mooring line and attaching it to the cleat. When rafting up rig fenders and heave or catch lines being utilized. You can also help lower and raise the anchor whether it’s hand over hand or via a winch. And, check to see that the anchor is holding strong.
Monitor the Radio … The ship’s radio is an important boating safety device that should be monitored. Beyond being used to contact the dockmaster, another vessel, or the Coast Guard; the ship’s radio will also broadcast imminent weather events, the location of newly formed navigational hazards, and provide information regarding a vessel in distress, or worse … a vessel in imminent danger! Set the radio to scan Channels 16 and 22A, then listen for the words, SECURITE, PAN-PAN, and MAYDAY . If you hear any of these broadcasts listen up! Then be mindful that you may need to change course, change plans, or be prepared to help a vessel in distress.
Keep an Eye on the Weather … On the water, forceful and unexpected changes in weather conditions can develop rapidly. Each season these events cause considerable damage to ships, waterfronts, and the overall marine environment. To mitigate the impact of such events keep an eye on the weather throughout the day. Look for developing clouds, darkening skies, increasing winds, decreasing visibility and rapidly changing temperature.
Bring Something for All, and Help Clean Up the Ship … Be a polite passenger. Arrive on time. Bring extra snacks and beverages. Before disembarking help swab the deck, plus stow lines, fenders, and equipment.