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6 safety tips to remember while boating this summer

Small girl in sunglasses and a life vest on a boat
Boating is always best when prioritizing safety.


To paraphrase a memorable Disney-created crustacean – Sebastian of “The Little Mermaid” fame – it doesn’t get much better than a day spent on the high seas, soaking in the beautiful sunshine and breathing in that fresh smell. This is particularly true from the comfortable confines of a boat.

Americans sure do love their vessels, as boat sales of late never seem to subside. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the positive purchase trend reached a sixth straight year in 2017, with outboard engine sales up 6 percent from the previous year. In short, from sea to shining sea, plenty of people in pontoons and powerboats will be out on the water in the days ahead.

“Thousands of recreational boating accidents happen every year.”

But nothing can put a damper on a boating excursion quite like an accident, which occurs much more often than it should. According to the most recent statistics available from the U.S. Coast Guard, there were nearly 4,500 recreational boating accidents in 2016, resulting in $49 million in damages and over 2,900 injuries. That’s up 11 percent from 2015, with the number of accidents increasing 7.3 percent.

Much like crashes on the roads, most boating accidents are preventable, overwhelmingly due to human error. If you’re new to boating or are a veteran owner, here are a few tips to be mindful of this summer when you’re out on the water:

1. Check the weather 
What looks like a bright, sunny day in the morning can take a turn quickly in the afternoon, particularly in the Northwest where cloudy conditions are common. Before you head out, check the local forecast to see what the weather situation is. If storms are expected, it may be best to reschedule to another day.

2. Give other vessels room to roam
According to the Insurance Information Institute, 8 in 10 boating injuries and accidents per year stem from multi-vessel crashes, meaning accidents involving at least two watercrafts. You can reduce the chances of this happening by maintaining plenty of space between other boat users. Industry experts say the ideal is 100 yards at the bow and stern and about 50 yards side to side.

3. Ride at posted speed limit
Each state has its own rules and regulations regarding how fast you can travel. Make sure you’re aware of what that number is and adjust accordingly. Speeds limits may differ depending on the body of water your riding and where on the lake or ocean you’re riding.

Woman on recreational boat with Golden retriever. Pets need protection too when you’re boating.

4. Always have life jackets aboard
It’s not only a good idea to have Coast Guard-approved life jackets on the boat, it’s often required by law. They may not need to wear one, but ensure that there’s one available for every rider who’s out with you – including pets.

5. Know before you go
While the actual riding is the best part of being in a boat, the most important part is before you leave the dock. It’s important to have everything you need – or may need – prior to departure and establish that all of the boat’s working parts are in good working order. NMMA has a great online resource that you can download and use as a pre-departure checklist.

6. Keep important papers in a safe place
Documentation is a key component of responsible boat ownership, which is why you should always have papers with you should you need to establish that you’re licensed to drive and your boat is registered. Patrol officers will want to see them if you’re ever cited for a violation.

Rob Swallow, personal lines sales executive at PayneWest, recommends going over your boat insurance policy for other operation issues that can result in a fine.

“Even a small watercraft can leak a significant amount of fuel and as the boat owner you can be responsible for the cleanup,” Swallow warned. “It’s good to review your policy and make sure these costly losses will be covered.”

Safety is key when you’re a boat owner and so is having the right protection. Talk to us at PayneWest and we’ll set you up with the watercraft insurance that fits your needs, budget and vessel type.

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