General Safety Tips
Importance of Communication in an EMERGENCY!
Here is what the Coast Guard Auxiliary suggests you have in place before next boating season:
- Knowledge of where you are at all times (GPS/Loran helps, but a chart is imperative; and electronics can and often do fail).
- How many are on-board: Adults/Children and do they have PFDs ( Personal Floation Devices)?
- What’s wrong? What is the nature of the distress?
- Description of your Vessel. (Name, Make, Length, Type, Color, Registration numbers/Boat name)
These four simple but extremely important pieces of information may just save your life some day. This is the initial, crucial information the Coast Guard will request when you call for an emergency. To see the actual Initial SAR Check Sheet used by the United States Coast Guard click below.
While we’re talking emergency communication, we wish to remind people that a MAYDAY call requires that all chatter on the frequency be halted immediately, and that only the parties to the MAYDAY transmit. Should you hear a MAYDAY, and not hear a response from the Coast Guard, it is possible that the transmission from the vessel in danger did not reach the Coast Guard. It is highly unlikely that you’ll hear the distress call, and the Coast Guard will not (due to the placement of many of the Coast Guards antenna installations), but it is possible.
If the Coast Guard does not acknowledge the MAYDAY transmission, it is your duty to act as an intermediary for that vessel and contact the Coast Guard for that distressed vessel. You may be the only chance that the distress vessel has to reach the Coast Guard.
Lastly, only use MAYDAY if there is a grave and imminent danger to life or property. Use Pan Pan, for serious emergencies, that don’t warrant a MAYDAY. Scurit is used to warn other boaters of issues that threaten the safety of navigation (a tow underway, a log in the water, etc).
For more information on boating safety, contact your United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla. Follow the links below for more information.
Personal Flotation Device
With the boating season underway, we want to reiterate that every member of your crew should have a U.S. Coast Guard Approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD). Here are some life jacket guidelines to follow:
- Buy your own and one size does not fit all.
- Read the label for size and weight limitations.
- Try it on. Check the fit. With straps and buckles secured, it should not slip over your head or cover your eyes.
- Replace if you find air leakage, mildew or rot.
- Never alter a life jacket or it could lose its effectiveness.
- Check yearly for flotation and fit.
- Wear it to set an example for younger children while increasing your chances of survival.
- Make the beginning of summer a gift-giving event and buy your boating children/grandchildren a PFD fitted to their size. Children need special care because of changing size and distribution of body weight.
Refueling safety from Boat U.S.
As part of its environmental mission, the Boat U.S. Foundation has launched a brand new website, www.HelpStoptheDrops.com. Here, you will find all sorts of safety and environmental tips on refueling and maintaining a boat, as well as answers to some of the following:
- What makes an oil-only absorbent pad better than a rag?
- Why is using detergent to disperse a sheen against the law?
- Can a fuel flow meter really save you money on gas?
Boat U.S. Cooperating Marinas are also partners in spreading the word about clean fueling. This summer, look for new signage at fuel docks reminding all boaters how they can make a difference. While there, be sure to take advantage of the exclusive BoatU.S. Member discounts on fuel.
Ropes & Lines
Keep Rope/Lines Clean
Dirt, sand, oil and acids will destroy line on your boat, whether it is natural or synthetic rope. To wash your rope, put it in a mesh bag or pillow case (to keep the rope from knotting and fouling up the washing machine), use a mild cleansing product and toss it in the washer.
Keep Ends Clean
The end of a line should be neat. If there are any frays, they will continue to grow and ruin more and more of the rope. Ends should be whipped (using whipping line), back spliced, dipped (there are dipping products on the market wherein you simply dip the end and it seals the rope), or burned (an excellent way to seal off modern line — heat the end of the rope until it melts and seals itself).
Don’t Let Rope Chafe or Abrade
You never want the same area of a rope rubbing somewhere over and over. It will fail sooner. Chafe guards are good for moored or docked boats. You can use leather chafe guards, or if the line is small enough you can split and use an old garden hose.
Getting your boat off the dock, sounds easy enough, right? Just push until you are clear of the dock and off you go. But, if your boat is rather large, and there is a lot of wind or adverse current, it is not that easy.
If the wind or current is moving parallel to the dock, this is a pretty easy scenario. Then you simply need to use a spring line and good fendering. The spring line should be used on the opposite end of the oncoming current or wind. For example, if your bow is into the wind/current, then you would put a spring line from your aft cleat and go forward on the dock. Just release the bow line and hit reverse a bit and the bow will swing out. Once clear, motor forward and retrieve your aft spring line.
(Note, if there is no one on the dock to untie your mooring line, here is a good tip. Have a dock line that has a clean end â no knots, kinks or unravelings. Then for your spring secure the line to your cleat, around a piling or cleat on the dock and back to the original cleat. Once you have sprung the boat off the dock, untie the clean end and let it go. Then retrieve the line. The clean end will slide around the dock cleat and back to the boat).
If the wind is perpendicular to the dock and blowing on to the dock, this is a much more difficult situation. You best bet is to spring your bow line. Use hard rudder in the direction that will kick your stern out and away from the dock. Once the stern is out far enough to clear, reverse rudder and engines and retrieve your bow spring line.