Fourth of July weekend is the busiest boating time of the year, and caution is important to insure safety. Life jackets are a must for youngsters.
Traditionally, the Fourth of July holiday is the busiest boating weekend. It can be a lot of fun. It can be dangerous.
Boaters will take to the water for relaxation, including fishing, cruising, skiing, swimming, and watching fireworks. It’s a time to reflect on our independence and the freedoms we enjoy, including celebrating in the great outdoors. Many locations have over-the-water fireworks displays, and the exploding shells are beautiful from a boat.
However, congested waterways can be hazardous, and common sense, planning and cautions can make for an fun Fourth, and not a tragic holiday.
The BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water says that making a few extra preparations ahead of time will go a long way towards increasing your family's and friend's safety and fun on the water.
Here are eight tips that will help you stay safe this July Fourth holiday:
Planning is an import element of a good weekend, yet it often is overlooked.
Kids need life jackets and correct size jackets. Everyone wants to be on the boat this holiday weekend, but do you have the right-sized life jacket aboard for any visiting kids? An adult needs an adult jacket and children need jackets that fit them, and not slip over their heads.
July Fourth is the one time a year many fair-weather boaters - who may rarely navigate in the dark - venture out after the sun goes down. They stay out to see the fireworks. The most reported type of boating accident is a collision with another vessel so it's a good idea to keep your speed down, post an extra lookout, and ensure all your navigation lights work. A spotlight is a must, and ensure all safety gear is readily available and life jackets are worn. Be extra vigilant about not running over anchor lines in crowded fireworks viewing areas, and don't take shortcuts in the dark. Be especially careful, if you are on the Ohio river. Current can be a problem as well as push boat barges.
Wear life jackets. Many people think they are a nuisance. Wrong. I personally like the self-inflating type that are light weight and not hot. Almost three-quarters of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 87 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can happen very quickly, sometimes leaving no time to don a life jacket.
Don’t overload your boat. Resist the urge to invite more friends or family to the fireworks show than what your boat was designed to carry. Heavily loaded small boats, and those with little freeboard such as bass boats, are more susceptible to swamping from weather or wake action associated with heavy July Fourth boating traffic.
It’s one of the longest days of the year, and a great one to enjoy. If you are going to have an alcoholic drink, make sure you have a designated driver, who knows how to properly drive the boat. A full day in the sun will increase alcohol's effects on the body, so it's better to wait until you're safely back at the dock or home before breaking out the libations. (Kentucky law prohibits boat operators or passengers from drinking alcohol on the water.}
Also bring lots of water, and check the weather reports to avoid storms. The long-range forecast at this writing does forecast possible thunderstorms.
Know how to get back into the boat. A fall overboard can turn into a life-threatening situation pretty quickly, especially for small boats without built-in boarding ladders.
Don’t run the engine with swimmers in the water. Raft-ups, or groups of boats tied together in a protected anchorage, is a great way to spend the holiday with fellow boating friends, especially at today’s gasoline prices.
However boaters should never run an engine, or a generator for that matter, with swimmers in the water near exhaust ports or props.
Whether you boat or just enjoy a picnic and fireworks, the weekend should be a fond memory, not an unhappy one. Be safe.