Yacht clubs all over the country anticipate opening day. To help make the yachting season more enjoyable for you and your family, now is the time to launch a safety plan for your vessel, captain, and crew.
Start with the boat itself. Proper preparation and inspection of your yacht, especially its machinery, is critical. You or your captain and crew should know everything about the vessel's systems and how to gain access to each compartment.
Know Your Boat
- Inspect your dock, dock lines and mooring. Be sure they are in good condition and properly position the vessel. This is important to prevent damage and make it safe to board and leave the vessel.
- Be sure your batteries are in good condition, fully charged, and that the charging system is working properly. Make sure all fire extinguishers and automatic fire suppression systems are up to date, accessible, and working properly.
- Make sure your safety equipment is accessible and functioning properly, including first aid kits, life preservers, life rafts, EPIRBS and visual distress signals.
- Be sure bilge pumps and high water alarms are working properly. Make sure each thru-hull valve works properly, is accessible, and has an available emergency plug. Inspect the vessel to make sure that there is no unexplained water in the bilge or other compartments.
Navigation and Communication
- Make sure your radio, GPS, radar and other vital electronic equipment work properly. Confirm that your charts (physical and electronic) are the most up-to-date available.
- Know the area you're navigating and beware of any unusual characteristics such as underwater rocks, reefs, sand bars, and recent or uncharted shipwrecks. If you are unfamiliar with an area, take someone who knows it and can help you navigate safely.
Planning is Key
- File a "float plan" that details your departure time, expected route, and estimated return time. Make sure you set a deadline for someone to contact the proper authorities if you fail to check in.
- Monitor the weather prior to departure and while on the water. Conditions can change rapidly. If you are planning a multi-day voyage, ask for help from a weather routing specialist.
- If you have guests who are unfamiliar with your vessel, give them a tour and explain its various attributes. Explain the do's and don'ts, and always show them where they can find life jackets and fire extinguishers in case of emergency.
Always be cautious on the water. Be prudent and aware of all that is going on around you. Be alert for floating objects, changes in weather, and reckless or inattentive boaters. This attention to detail, along with fully preparing your vessel, systems and crew before you leave the dock, will help ensure that your yachting season is off to a safe and secure start.