(July 9, 2015)
Angry waves, fallen waterskiers, capsizes: Do you know how protect yourself and your passengers? Take the test to rate your boat safety knowledge.
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As the boat operator towing a water skier, you must look back frequently to make sure the skier is still upright and not in any trouble.
You should have a separate spotter on board to keep an eye out whenever a person is being towed — whether on skis, a water toy, or any other device, according to Vann Burgess, senior recreational boating safety specialist for the U.S. Coast Guard. (Some states omit the spotting requirement if the skier is wearing a Coast Guard–approved life jacket.)
Before starting your inboard motor, you must first:
The law requires you run the blower for at least four minutes before you start your engine to vent any buildup of fuel vapors in the enclosed space below deck. Doing so is particularly important after refueling. A build-up of vapors can cause a fire or explosion.
A Coast Guard–approved wearable life jacket or personal flotation device is required for every person on board a boat of any size.
Everyone must wear a Coast Guard-approved lifejacket, but there are a few caveats. States and the Coast Guard require different types of life jackets depending on water conditions, so check on the regulations in your state. Not having Coast-Guard approved life jackets is probably the most common violation of boating safety, says Burgess.
Sailboats under sail are always required to yield to powerboats.
Powerboats are required to yield to less maneuverable craft, such as sailboats, except in narrow channels and other special circumstances, so keep an eye out in the ocean or lake. “It’s not like a road,” says Burgess. “You have to have your head on a swivel all the time to know where people are coming from. If you don’t, that’s how collisions occur.”
When pulling up to a dock, it’s best to approach slowly, heading into the wind or current.
Motoring into the wind or current will give you maximum control of your boat and the opportunity to reduce power and slow or stop your approach, if necessary. Before you approach the dock, have one end of the docking lines secured onboard and your fenders ready (and, of course, reduce your speed), according to boatsafe.com.
On a dark night you spot a white light over a green light off to port. What’s happening?
Navigation Light Rules require powerboats (and sailboats under power) under 40 feet to display a green side light on the starboard side near the bow and a white all-around or stern light at a higher level. So a white light over green would be a powerboat showing its starboard side — most likely on a course to pass in front of you. Under most circumstances, you would have the right-of-way, but proceed with caution.
To keep your passengers drier and more comfortable while heading into waves:
By taking the waves at a slight angle, you roll over the top of the wave and reduce pounding and spray. But if the waves are so big that they are pushing your boat sideways or backwards, turn into the wave.
In case of an emergency in a small boat, you should:
Sounding your horn or whistle are recognized signs of distress. So is repeatedly raising and lowering your outstretched arms.
When you are navigating upstream or entering a channel from seaward, you should keep the red buoys on the port side.
If you are headed upstream, the red buoys should be on starboard and the green, to port. The old saying “red, right, returning” means keep the red buoys on the right (starboard) when returning to port (that is, returning from the sea and heading upstream).
If your boat capsizes, you should:
Your best bet is almost always to cling to the boat or climb on top of it and wait to be rescued, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
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