Fall boating safety tips

| 17 Sep 2012 | 12:00

    The Sea Tow Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes safe boating practices, is providing a few safety tips for boating on these shorter, cooler autumn days.

    1. Update your charts

    Helpful landmarks you've relied on all summer to point out shallow sections may look different as the leaves change color and fall. You also may find yourself cruising home in the dark more often with earlier sunsets, making those landmarks hard to spot. Aids to navigation such as channel markers and buoys placed by local authorities may be pulled as early as October in some areas. Make sure that your charts – electronic and paper – are up to date and use them to navigate.

    2. Check your lights and flares

    Make sure that your boat's navigation lights are in working order and your emergency flares are not past their expiration date. Carry a couple of waterproof flashlights to help you unload passengers and their gear at the dock or boat ramp after dark, and be sure to stock spare batteries. A flashlight also can be used in an emergency at night to signal for help.

    3. Carry a VHF radio

    During the fall boating months, the waterways are less crowded. While this can be peaceful, it also means that if you run into a problem, you might not see another boater. A VHF radio can be used to call for help even in spots where your cell phone has no signal. Use Sea Tow's free Automated Radio Check (ARC) system to ensure your VHF is working properly. To find the ARC VHF channel in your area, visit www.seatow.com/boating-safety/automated-radio-checks.

    4. Dress in layers

    As the days get shorter, there can be rapid changes in air temperature from day to evening. Dress in layers that can be easily removed or added when the air warms up or grows chilly. And, make sure that your life jacket can fit over your layers.

    5. Wear a lifejacket

    In the autumn, as water temperatures start to fall, boaters who accidentally fall overboard run an increased risk of hypothermia. While children under 13 must wear a life jacket when the boat is under way by law, it's a good idea for adults to wear them, too – especially at night. Purchase life jackets with lights attached so rescuers can find you in the water.

    For more information, please visit boatingsafety.com.