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Sailing Safety Tips

You have your sailing clothing on, your boat stocked (as best as you think it should be) and you’re ready for a trip out to sea - or so you think. Could you have forgotten something?

A report by the U.S. Coast Guard stated the top 10 known primary contributing factors of recreational boating accidents for 2012:

  • Operator inattention
  • Operator inexperience
  • Improper lookout
  • Machinery failure
  • Excessive speed
  • Navigation rules violation
  • Alcohol use
  • Force of wake/wave
  • Weather
  • Hazardous waters

More than 100 of these accidents resulted in death and several hundred resulted in injuries that could have had a great chance of being prevented had sailors followed proper sailing safety tips.

Think you’re fully prepared to take on that great big body of water? Be certain and have safe and enjoyable trip by following these sailing safety tips.

Always wear a life jacket.
Almost seventy one percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, almost eighty five percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket (U.S. Coast Guard).

Life Vest

Check the weather.
If conditions are expected to be hazardous, reschedule your trip for a better day. If you’re out on the water when the weather suddenly and unexpectedly becomes hazardous, seek harbor right away.

Tell someone about your planned trip.
Let a trusted source know:
  • The estimated time of your trip.
  • The names and contact information of all who would be joining you.
  • The type of communication the boat has.

Above tips taken from a Sailing Safety Slide Show written by avid boater H. Dan Hill.

Get a sailing education.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety website, many boating safety courses are offered various counties for all types of recreational boaters and for boaters of all ages. Familiarize yourself with sailing and the way of the water by taking a boating safety course.

Check your gear before you sail.
Don’t leave the dock until you can answer yes to each of these questions:

  • Are my personal floatation devices in good condition (free from tears, discoloring, sun rotting, and moisture)?
  • If my vessel is more than 16 ft. long, do I have an additional throwable device aboard?
  • Have I packed a basic toolbox with all the tools I need for my boat?
  • Have I tested my navigation and anchor lights, steering, tilt/trim, blige pump, and the marine radio?
  • Do I have a fire extinguisher aboard that works and is easy to access? Do my passengers know where it’s located?
  • Do I have a flashlight, spare batteries, and first aid kit?
  • If a bobbin has been installed on my life jackets, is it still valid and not expired?

Most departure tips taken from the Hiawatha Valley Sail & Power Squad. View the non-profit’s printable Boater’s Pre-departure Checklist.

Limit your alcohol intake. 
According to the American Boating Association (ABA), boating while intoxicated is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. If you’re operating a boat and you have a blood alcohol level of just 10 percent (approximately one to three beers), you are ten times as likely to be killed in a boating accident as a sober boater. Know your limit.

In closing, remember this (from the National Safe Boating Council) to help you remember the above tips -
BE SAFE: 
Know your …

  • Boat
  • Equipment
  • Safety devices and PFDs
  • Alcohol limits
  • First aid and emergency procedures
  • Environment (area and weather)


To update your sailing gear or purchase new sailing clothing, visit our website.



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