Captain Moe Newman knows a thing or two about how to stay safe on the water. Being one of the top guides in all of Southern Louisiana, she is on the water a ton and unfortunately we don’t always have sunny sky and flat calm conditions. Here are some tips from Captain Moe Newman on Boating Safety.
1. Drain Plug
Whether you want to consider this a safety tip or not, putting the drain plug in is absolutely a necessity to staying safe on the water. The drain plug sits below the waterline and will let water in if it is forgotten. Forgetting it when in the water will weigh down your boat, not allowing you to make adjustments when driving the boat. In the end, it can cause you to sink your boat or capsize it while under power. It is needed though to allow any water from the bilge area to be released when you get off the water. Not forgetting the drain plug will alleviate the times you hear “Uh… Hey Cap’n. Is there supposed to be this much water in the boat right now?”
BONUS TIP: If your boat does not have a drain plug, like some smaller fiberglass and aluminum boats, make sure to have some sort of automatic or mechanical bilge pump you can use in case you have too much water in the boat at one time.
The weather can get rough fast, and being prepared or not being on the water in the first place is a good idea.
2. Check the Weather
Nowadays, there are a plethora of weather apps that will allow you to check all conditions from temperature, wind, swell, clouds, sea surface temperatures, and tides. Check your conditions a few days before, up to the day of and don’t be mad if you have to call off a day of fishing because the conditions are too dangerous. It’s always better to have a nice day off hanging out rather than someone getting hurt on the water just because everyone was too stubborn not to go.
3. Have a float plan
It is easy to be complacent when heading out on the water when it comes to letting someone know where you are going. “Oh I’m only going out for a few hours” is the normal thought process but it is always a good idea to fill out a float plan anyway. A float plan will include details such as who you are, who will be on the boat with you, what type of boat you have (size, engine, color etc.), and departure date and time and arrival date and time (it can be approximate). This is all information that can save your life in the case of an emergency. Even something as simple as telling your significant other where you will be and who will be with you can be a great idea. In the case of emergency, make sure that SO knows all that information to tell Coast Guard. A quick guide and great resource to learn more about float plans can be found here.
4. Check Emergency Equipment
Emergency equipment is not only a state law but a necessity when on the water. When you have passengers on board make sure they all know where all the emergency equipment is. This includes but is not limited to: lifeboats if you have them, fire extinguishers, flotation donuts or throwables, and life jackets. Life jackets should be worn when under power in almost all scenarios in case a large wave is struck and someone goes overboard. The life jacket can save their lives. If you choose not to wear one at any point, continue to make sure everyone knows where they are at all times.
A VHF is a standard feature on most boats now, but if you dont have one, consider buying one.
5. Pack Emergency Messaging Device
There are many brands out there now that make emergency devices. Whether you are on a large vessel and have a VHF radio, or a smaller vessel and you carry a handheld radio, both are very important to have. On top of that, as Moe mentions, a satellite SOS device such as the Garmin inReach is also an invaluable tool in case you plan to fish in areas with little cell service.
These 5 tips for boating safely are designed around either how to handle emergencies when on the water, or to make sure you know the conditions beforehand to decide whether it is safe to go out in the first place. This is not a complete list. There is a plethora of resources out there on becoming the safest you can be on the water. BOATUS Foundation also has boater safety courses that we recommend everyone take even if you only ever plan to rent a boat occasionally. Some states may require this course but we recommend taking it regardless. They also have many resources on boat safety for free.