HEALTHY LIVING — Smooth sailing through summer
Boating is a great way to have fun and spend time with your children or grandchildren. It’s important to establish some boating safety rules and procedures that will help reduce the chance of trouble or injury during your excursion. Also, if youngsters are joining you, there are a few features to consider for your boat:
- Consider a boat that has a cuddy cabin. Runabouts, bow riders and deck boats, even some center console fishing boats, are sometimes equipped with a small cuddy cabin to offer refuge for the kids if they need a nap, or are getting too much sun.
- Buy a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket or life vest with a collar that turns a child face up in the water. It must have strong waist and crotch straps, a handle on the collar, and preferably be a bright yellow or orange color for good visibility. It’s always a good idea for everyone on the boat to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, whether the boat is a large speedboat or a canoe — and whether you’re a good swimmer or not. Wearing a life jacket (also known as a personal flotation device, or PFD) is the law in some states for certain age groups and you could face a stiff penalty for breaking it.
- Attach a plastic safety whistle to the life jacket and practice using it with the child.
- Be weather wise — check the forecast before departure.
- Use common sense — One of the most important parts of boating safety is to use your common sense.
- Develop a Float Plan — Let someone else know where you’re going and how long you’re going to be gone, along with name, address and phone number of trip leader, name and phone number of all passengers and boat type and registration information. Have communication and signal equipment onboard, such as an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or Personal Locator Beacon.
- Avoid Alcohol — Practice boating safety at all times by saving the alcohol for later. The probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved and studies have shown that the effects of alcohol are exacerbated by sun and wind. One-third of boating deaths are alcohol related. Alcohol distorts our judgment no matter where we are — but that distortion is even greater on the water.
- Learn to swim — If you’re going to be in and around the water, proper boating safety includes knowing how to swim.
Also, the U.S. Coast Guard warns about a condition called boater’s fatigue, which means that the wind, noise, heat and vibration of the boat all combine to wear you down when you’re on the water.
Finally, stay aware anytime you are even near the water, especially with children. It’s amazing how fast a child can get away from you and get themselves into a dangerous situation. When preparing this column, I was told of a family that lost their child due to the child falling between the dock and the boat and getting caught under the boat.
Don’t let a fun outing turn into a tragedy. Be prepared, stay vigilant, but by all means, enjoy yourself, your family and your boat.
Summer is here; have a great time with family and friends. Stay safe and stay healthy, my friends.
Jody Holton writes about healthy living for The Port Arthur News.