Nothing can beat an afternoon out on the water, cruising in your boat with friends and family. Whether you’re swimming and relaxing in the sunshine on your skiff or angling off your fishing boat or pontoon, boating offers limitless possibilities for enjoyment whether on a lake, river or out on the ocean. Norfolk Marine is here for all the Virginia boaters who are itching to de-winterize their boats and get on the water as soon as possible. We know boating safety is important to both you and your family, so to help keep you safe, we’ve created this guide to basic boating safety.

Prepare Yourself Accordingly

It’s important for us to note that there are a number of federal regulations you should follow and this guide is not an exhaustive list of them. Check your state’s laws and those regarding the body of water you’re entering to ensure that you’re following all rules to the letter.

Before you begin any boating expedition, you’ll want to prepare for your trip. The easiest thing to do is to check the weather. No one wants to get caught in a sudden squall, particularly out on the open ocean. Be aware of the conditions you’ll be boating in and don’t go out if the forecast looks dicey. The Atlantic hurricane season generally begins in June and goes through November, so don’t assume you’re in the clear because the leaves have started to turn. Keep yourself informed, check your barometers and stay safe.

In addition to having the Inland Rules of the Road posted for passengers to read, you or the captain of your vessel should verbally go over the rules of the boat with everyone aboard. Appointing an assistant skipper should the captain be incapacitated is a wise idea so that they’re able to take charge and steer everyone to safety in an emergency.

You should inform someone on shore about your planned route and your itinerary before heading out, so that they can contact the appropriate authorities and rescue teams if you aren’t back at the appointed time.

Acquire The Necessary Equipment

Having the right equipment is vital to save lives and make your trip a safe one. First, everyone aboard should know how to swim, even if it’s just dog-paddling and being able to float until help arrives. Second, all passengers need to have a life jacket that fits them — don’t try to put an adult life jacket on a child, for example — and these need to be worn for the duration of the trip. Federal regulations state that a throwable personal flotation or Type IV device needs to be aboard the vessel as well.

Your boat should have flares or another visual distress signal that’s visible in daytime and nighttime conditions. Bells and horns are also necessary, as is a functioning fire extinguisher. A radio and phone are good to have for signaling distress. Items like first aid kits, flashlights, an anchor and bilge pumps aren’t required, but are recommended.

Federal regulations require backfire arrestors and ventilation systems on gas-powered vessels, as well as a marine sanitation system to prevent sewage pollution in the water. You also should have placards reminding passengers of the penalties association with oil pollution and trash dumping.

Use Common Sense On The Water

After you focus on the necessities and your preparations, you should be following some basic best practices while on the water. Don’t consume alcohol to excess, particularly if you’re the driver or captain of the vessel. You don’t want your judgement to be impaired in the event of an emergency or bad weather. Also, alcohol reduces blood circulation to your extremities so if you fall overboard while inebriated, you’re at an increased risk of contracting hypothermia.

Make sure to give other boats plenty of space, and give smaller vessels the right of way when passing them. You’ll want to look out for swimmers and watercraft users in particular. Steer clear of debris and stay aware of shallow water so you don’t run your boat aground. Practicing a little common sense will ensure that your day out on the water stays fun and safe for everyone aboard.

When you’re preparing your boat for the water and you discover she needs some service or parts, schedule an appointment with Norfolk Marine. We can also show you our great selection of new and used inventory, including skiffs, fishing boats, pontoons and more. The Norfolk Marine showroom is located in Norfolk, easily accessed by customers in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, Virginia.