Environment, Health & Safety
Springtime Boater Safety Tips
Spring is officially here. The longer days and warmer temperatures are a welcome relief for many Wisconsin residents after a long, cold winter. The first warm days of spring draw many people outside, especially onto the open lakes and rivers. While this warmer weather is very inviting for water-lovers, it can also be the most dangerous time to be out on the water. Our Lake Safety team would like you to keep the following tips in mind before venturing out:
Inspect Your Boat
Ensure that you have a full tank of fresh gas and that your battery is holding a full charge. Running out of fuel and having a bad battery are two of the most common causes for boaters to become stranded on the water. Also check that your drain plug is secured and that your bilge pump is working.
Consider having the US Coast Guard Auxiliary perform a free safety inspection. The USCGA will examine your boat, often at a pre-determined launch site, to make sure it meets minimum safety requirements. If they find a violation, they won't issue a citation. Rather, they'll provide recommendations on how to be in compliance. Please see http://wow.uscgaux.info/content.php?unit=V-DEPT for more information.
Count Your Life Jackets
Double-check your life jacket inventory. Remember, you must have one life jacket on board for every passenger, including weight-appropriate sizes for children. Keep extra life jackets on board and replace those that are faded or outdated. Most importantly, don't forget to wear your life jacket! Most drownings can be prevented by wearing one.
Check the Weather
Pay attention to the weather forecast. A day that begins with warm temperatures and calm winds and waves can quickly escalate to cold temperatures, strong winds and large waves. Bring appropriate foul-weather gear/raincoats.
Remember that while the air temperature may be warm, the water temperature is not! Body heat is lost approximately 25 times faster in water than in air. As little as one hour spent in 50oF water can lead to death; that time is reduced if the water is colder. It may take up to a month or two for the water to warm to a temperature where hypothermia is no longer a primary concern.
Pack extra clothes, blankets, food, and a cell phone in a waterproof bag. These items can be very useful, if not life-saving, in the event of a sudden change in weather or someone falling into the water.
Refresh your boater safety knowledge. Go to http://www.boat-ed.com/wi/ to reacquaint yourself with the Wisconsin boating rules and regulations. If you were born in 1989 or later, you must take a Boater Safety Course to operate any motorized water vehicle.