Boating is a good leisure and recreational activity for people who enjoy the water. It’s fun and exciting. Though boating is generally a safe activity, it’s wise to remember that any body of open water imposes danger if one is not well-prepared, informed, and equipped. So whether you are a new boatie or an experienced one, its best to be aware of the common problems that can arise when you are on the water and how to best prevent them.
Most collisions happen after sundown but can also occur during the daytime, especially during peak times. Surprisingly, despite the vastness of lakes, sea, and the ocean, collisions happen because people fail to observe navigational markers, or they may be travelling too fast. Out of all the possible incidents that can happen on the water, this is the most serious and possibly fatal.
How to prevent collision
Install navigation lights – When travelling in the dark, make sure to install the required navigation lights as indicated in the guidelines given by the Australian government. The navigation lights will signal to the other boats your position, the direction you’re heading to, and the speed your boat is running at. It’s important to test and make sure your navigation lights are working properly before entering the water.
Slow down after sundown – It’s important to slow down when boating in the dark so it’s easier to see other boats, navigation marks, and other fixtures. Maintain a safe distance from any boats or markers and make sure you are not exceeding the speed limit. Constantly be aware of your surroundings. If you feel like you are about to doze-off, have somebody else in charge of the steering instead. Most importantly, make sure to leave plenty of space if another boat is approaching.
Just like vehicles on land, water vessels accumulate problems through wear and tear. The lack of regular maintenance can cause the essential parts of the boat to deteriorate, leading to breakdowns. This can also happen to boats that have not been used for a very long time.
How to prevent breakdowns
Regular checkups – The best way to prevent breakdowns is to do regular boat maintenance. Having a professional go over your boat routinely to identify potential problems and fix them immediately before they worsen is simply the best way to keep your boat in excellent shape. If the boat has been idle for quite some time, make sure to service the engine first prior to boating season. By having someone with experience look at your boat, you will be able to determine if the parts are still working well or if they need replacing.
Do a general inspection and maintenance before going on a boat trip – That includes checking on all moving parts. Make sure that they are well oiled up. Test if you can easily start the engine. Listen to it and look for funny noises that can be signs of possible problems. Test the battery as well as electrical components such as lights. Ensure everything is working properly before heading out onto the water.
Check the fuel system – You need to check on the fuel system, too. Look at the tank and fuel lines. Make sure that there is no leakage and the fuel is flowing smoothly to the engine. If your boat has not been used for a long time, drain the unused fuel and replace it. It may cause a problem in the fuel system. Only if everything is working well should you continue your planned boating activity.
Grounding happens when your boat runs to shallow water and the hull hits the ground. This results in considerable damage to the boat, which you may not notice at first but will later cause flooding inside the vessel. If the boat happens to be moving fast, people may stumble and be injured.
How to prevent grounding
Familiarise yourself with the area – To avoid accidentally hitting the ground, you must study the water body where you are taking your boat. Learn how to read marine maps and ask the local coastguards or marine volunteers about the high-risk areas of the lake or ocean. If you are not sure about the water’s depth, slow down so you can have a better look around. In general, deep water is darker in colour while shallow water is in a lighter shade of blue.
Just like collisions, grounding can cause serious damage to your boat. If you notice that water is slowly building up inside your water vessel, see if you can find the hole. Once you do, try to plug the hole in any way you can then get back to the dock right away. However, if the flooding happens when you are far from a dock or jetty, then it’s better to call SOS and put your life vest on.
Falling overboard and capsizing
Water vessels smaller than six meters are prone to capsizing. This occurs when the boat turns to its side or completely turns over the water. Capsizing and falling overboard usually happen when the boat encounters a huge wave. Some boats can self-right or at least float even when capsized, but the real danger is with the people on board. They can get thrown to the water or be trapped under the upside-down boat.
What to do when your boat capsizes
Life jackets on board – First and foremost, always wear your life jacket or keep any personal flotation device handy. You’ll never know when accidents can happen and so it’s always better to be ready. Also, advise passengers beforehand to always hold on to a fixed part of the boat.
Observe capacity limits – Before your boat trip, check the maximum capacity of your vessel and load it accordingly. If you are not boating in calm waters, then it’s best to lessen your load and keep the weight evenly distributed. Check the weather forecast. If the condition is not ideal, it might be better to postpone your boat trip.
Plan for Emergency Situations
Make sure to have a solid plan for emergency situations and that all passengers are briefed before the journey. In the end, it’s really quite simple — observing the guidelines and regulations, and keeping your boat in top shape are all the steps you’ll need to take for a safe and memorable boating trip that is free from accidents and injuries.