A Beginner’s Guide to Navigating the Waters This Summer
The lakes, marshes, and swamps of Louisiana continuously prove to be a special element of the state’s culture. Even the dramatic heat that approaches every summer is not a match for those who love a good fishing trip. With quarantine and social distancing taking up a majority of the spring, it’s no secret that Louisianians are itching to immerse themselves in nature and hit the waters. But whether you’re fishing, crabbing, scuba diving, or just taking the boat for a ride, it’s important to think safety and avoid any unexpected accidents. With this in mind, there are certain safety tips that everyone should be aware of:
1. Boating Safety Tips
All boating beginners should strive to learn about how to stay safe when it comes to navigating the waters this summer. Not only is it important for novices to gradually learn the ropes, but it can also be beneficial for those who need a refresher on the best boating practices.
Educational courses: Many states require boating safety courses before operating a boat. In Louisiana, it is a law that anyone who was born after January 1, 1984 must complete a boating safety course if he/she will be operating a motorized vessel over 10 hp. This is done to better prevent any accidents, injuries, and potential unexpected hazards when operating unfamiliar machinery.
Online resources: In addition to taking an educational safety course, we recommend utilizing online resources, such as videos, to learn more about operating a boat. Make sure these sources are credible. Boating Magazine, for example, uploads on a consistent basis and offers short videos about staying safe, from life jacket selection to informational buying guides.
Radars: One way to stay safe when the waters aren’t so tranquil includes using a radar. Radars are not required, but they can definitely come in handy, especially on a foggy day or during the night. These devices allow sailors to monitor any approaching boats or non-detectable land masses.
Boat wakes: Be aware of the wake you make. A boat wake is defined at the area of recirculating water behind a vessel under power. The rippling effect of the wake can become a source of danger and can lead to potential hazards, such as shoreline erosion or harm for other boaters. Passengers on smaller boats, and even those on larger vessels, can be thrown off balance if a wake becomes too powerful. It’s also a general common courtesy to slow your vessel when passing other boaters, especially if they’re fishing as to not deter any potential catches. Certain laws make you responsible for any damage that your vessel’s wake creates, so ensure that you are aware at all times of your actions.
2. What to Keep on Board to Stay Safe
Keeping your vessel stocked with safety items should be a given, but it’s easy to forget which items are critical when in a hurry. Keep these items in mind for future boating experiences:
Life Jacket: Personal Flotation Devices are crucial for maintaining safety on board. Children under 13 are often required by law to wear a flotation device while on a boat, so be sure to check your state’s local requirements. Louisiana law requires that all children age 16 and under wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD while aboard a vessel less than 26 feet long. There are so many types and sizes of life jackets as well, so ensure the fit is right for each person aboard.
First Aid Kit: Preparing for the unexpected with a first aid kit is never a bad idea. Accidents are always waiting to happen and having some medical supplies on board including band aids, super glue, and hydrogen peroxide can come in handy in case of emergencies.
Miscellaneous: Items such as flashlights, blankets, sunscreen, and a Swiss Army knife can provide essential support on your boating trip. Don’t forget to bring a full supply of water for each sailor on board to stay hydrated in the heat, especially during a Louisiana summer. Lastly, one of the most important items that you’ll need on board is your boat registration. Make a note, put a reminder in your phone, or keep it in a safe place on board where you’ll have it at all times to avoid any fines or penalties.
3. Boat Trailering Tips
Once you’ve ensured that your boat is stocked with essential safety supplies, you’ll have to get your boat from your home to the water. Hauling a boat can be ultimately intimidating for first-time sailors, but these tips can make the process a lot smoother and reassuring.
Practice: For starters, backing up takes a lot of practice. On average, most people find that driving in reverse while towing a boat is the toughest feat of the entire experience. But with practice comes mastery. Find an empty parking lot or a large space and practice driving with your boat trailer. This can range from reversing to making wide turns. Also remember that backing up in a straight line is nearly impossible, so focus on moving in the right direction with slow, slight turns.
Keep Your Distance: Placing extra distance between your vehicle and those ahead of you is crucial. As with driving in general, a little extra space is never a bad idea. If you’re too close to the driver ahead of you, and need to slam on your brakes in the case of an unexpected event, then jackknifing can occur. This is when your trailer swings sideways and you can lose control of your steering. If you find that your boat trailer is constantly swaying, even when keeping your distance, then stop and examine your rig. You may need to adjust the trailer’s tongue weight.
Post-Arrival Check-Up: Conduct a post-arrival check-up when you’ve reached your destination. One thing that you can check for is your trailer’s wheel hubs. They should be cool or in some cases, slightly warm. If your trailer’s wheel hubs are hot, then there may be some associated problems with your bearings, such as a nut that is too tight. You’ll need to get your trailer serviced as soon as possible to avoid any future complications.
While the goal is to have fun when operating a vessel this season, safety should still be kept top-of-mind. Beginner boaters have so much to learn, and while experience will be a major factor in learning, there are multiple precautions that need to be taken before-hand. From taking an educational course, to stocking your boat full of the right supplies, boating is an activity that is best enjoyed when danger is kept away.