Category: Boat Safety

The Dangers of Distracted Boating: How to Stay Focused with SCAN

distracted boating

Boating is sometimes looked at as a bit of a slacker’s sport. After all, many hit the water specifically as a break from the hustle and bustle of real life. Even so, the fact that boating is associated with a lax lifestyle doesn’t mean that even the most “chill” of captains can let safety go by the wayside. Atop that list of risky boating practices is distracted boating–something many of us struggle with now that smartphones put the internet at our fingertips.

Instead of taking selfies and updating your Twitter feed with the latest from your boating adventure, put the phone down while operating your vessel and use your day on the water as a bit of an escape–unplug, as they say. As we’ve discussed in a previous blog post, distracted driving is dangerous enough, but when you add in the dangers inherent with operating a boat, the risks only increase.

How to Avoid Distracted Boating

In an article from Boating Mag, the National Safe Boating Council director emeritus Virgil Chambers outlined a handy reminder to keep your mind off of distractions and prioritize safety. Just remember to SCAN:

  • Search: Always remember to scan your surroundings for potential dangers, such as fellow boaters, sandbars, and other obstructions. Remember, the higher the speed, the less time you’ll have to avoid anything in your path. 
  • Concentrate: You have to also be sure to focus on other objects with which you’re sharing the water. Is it another boat? Is that vessel traveling a bit too quickly? Is it stationary? Concentrating on the waterway will keep you from accidentally running into trouble. 
  • Analyze: Pay close attention to whether the object in view is seeming to get closer to you without changing position. This is a sure sign that you are on a collision course and need to change direction. 
  • Negotiate: If you find yourself on a collision course, do not panic. Instead, safely make an obvious adjustment after carefully assessing your current position.

By keeping your concentration on safety while operating your vessel, you can enjoy more time having fun once stationary. Though smartphones may be handy in an emergency or to snap some pictures of your adventures, just make sure electronics and other factors don’t lead you into the dangerous waters of distracted boating.

Safe Boating Week: How You Can Start Boating Season Off Right

safe boating week

Safe boating is something we always try to preach at Hi-Tide, and for good reason. We love boating but never at the expense of safety. See, when it comes to something inherently fun, it’s far too easy to get carried away and put the fun before responsibility. We get it. However, with this week having been Safe Boating Week, we were inspired to remind you of a few ways you can boat safely this season.

Safe Boating Week-Inspired Ways to Stay Safe on the Water

  • Boating Safety Classes: OK, pros. We know you’re probably rolling your eyes here. You don’t need any stinkin’ boating safety class. Right? Wrong. Even the most practiced boater can get a bit rusty if he or she doesn’t brush up on the basics from time to time. Heck, you may learn something new. For the less practiced boater, taking a local boating safety class makes perfect sense to get a handle on the do’s and don’ts before hitting the water and putting others at risk. 
  • Vessel Safety Checks: The US Coast Guard will happily provide a vessel safety check, free of charge. Some have a misconception that safety violations will result in some kind of fines or other penalty but rest assured, these checks are simply to help ensure your boat is safe. Additionally, the USCG provides a handy boat safety checklist to help you examine your own vessel and make sure it’s ready for your next adventure. 
  • Life Jacket Fit: Life jackets (aka PFDs) are extremely important, literally life-saving boating safety devices. However, if they don’t fit properly, they won’t do you much good in an emergency. Learn how to properly fit a life jacket before buying them for yourself and your family.

Though Safe Boating Week is coming to a close, these tips can help you all season long. Brush up on your boating in local boating safety classes, get and perform boating safety checks and make sure your life jackets fit before hitting the water. Remember, boating is great fun, but only as long as we all commit to doing so safely. We’ll see you (safely) on the water.

Boat Maintenance Tips for Spring

boat maintenance

Spring is coming, and with it, prime boating season. OK, so Florida may not get the icy winters of our northern neighbors but even so, people tend to flock to the water once the heat starts coming back in full force. Before you do hit the water again this spring, make sure you follow these quick boat maintenance tips that could keep you and your family safe.

  • Safety First: Before all else, think of safety. Check your personal floatation devices to ensure they’re in good shape, double check the dates on your flares and fire extinguishers and replenish your first aid kit. Additionally, if you have emergency beacons, flashlights and strobes onboard, double check their batteries, as they may have been drained or corroded if left in devices too long.
  • Corrosion Check: From damaging UV sun rays to corrosive salt water, the belts, hoses and cables on your boat can take a beating. Before hitting the water, check all water and fuel hoses for cracks and damage, make sure belts aren’t showing signs of fraying and check that all cables are in tip-top shape. If any of these essentials are damaged, they could break on you mid-trip, leaving you and yours in bad shape. Take special care to check all pieces made of rubber, plastic and easily corroded metals.
  • External Evaluation: Though it may sound vain, your boat’s looks matter–not the color of paint or the detail work you decide on, but the shape your hull is in. Check for any damage, cracks or discoloration that may need to be addressed before your next trip. Also, be sure to wash your vessel thoroughly before and after your time on the water to avoid future damage and take the time to ensure that all lights are working on your vessel, as connections can become corroded or bulbs can break.

For some more specifics, check out this helpful video from Boat US:

You may want to rush out as soon as bathing suit weather hits, but it’s well worth the time and effort to make sure you do a bit of boat maintenance to ensure your next trip is a safe one. By checking your safety equipment, looking for corrosion and evaluating your hull and lights, you can make sure your vessel is shipshape and ready to take on a day of fun.

The Big Dangers of Chartering with the Wrong Vessel

Boating with groups of friends or family is one of the true joys of boat ownership. There is nothing quite like hitting the water with some of your favorite people for a day of fun. However, for those without a boat, renting a chartering service can also be appealing for an exciting trip on the water. That day can quickly turn tragic if the vessel isn’t up to the task of safely chartering you and your guests.

Before booking a boatful of your favorites, you should understand the risks and considerations of chartering large parties on an uncertified vessel.

What to Know Before Booking a Chartering Trip with Large Parties

  • Only Coast Guard-certified and inspected vessels are allowed to carry parties larger than 12.
  • Overloaded boats could lead to extremely dangerous conditions, including tragic incidents such as the one that occurred in Tampa Bay in 2017.
  • With too many people aboard a non-certified vessel, the shifting weights can lead to stability issues and the potential to toss people overboard.
  • Larger parties require more pfds on board–one for each adult and child.
Though some may assume “it’ll be fine” if they book a large party aboard their vessel without confirming the boat’s inspection history and certification, it is vital to do so to ensure the safety of your loved ones. The US Coast Guard urges everyone who plans to charter more than 12 guests aboard their vessel to only do so with a regularly inspected and certified vessel that can handle such conditions. If you own a chartering service, do what’s right by your customers and operate safely. If you are paying for a chartering service, do not hesitate to ask if the vessel has been certified and inspected by the US Coast Guard before stepping foot aboard.

Boating Under the Influence: How the Sober Skipper Program is Trying to Save Lives

boating under the influence

With the week or two of cold that us Floridians call “winter” already in the rearview, you know what is just around the corner: pitch-perfect boating weather. Though you may have taken a little time off for the holiday season, the blue skies, scorching sun and warm waters on the horizon mean boaters will be coming out in droves. Unfortunately, more boaters means more cases of boating under the influence–but one group doesn’t think that has to be the case forever.

An effort to curb boating under the influence is picking up steam, called Sober Skippers. Backed by the Sea Tow Foundation, a boating safety and education group, the push to designate sober skippers before hitting the water is similar to efforts to get people to designate sober drivers on roadways and just as important.

There is a laid-back attitude in most aspects of boating, but that approach becomes dangerous, even life-threatening, when it’s applied to boating under the influence. Though you may think you can handle a couple of light beers without much effect, the truth is, operating a boat safely can be a tricky task in the best of conditions. With blowing winds, blinding sunlight, scorching temperatures, unpredictable weather conditions and even more unpredictable fellow boaters, why impair yourself further?

At Hi-Tide, we’re all for enjoying boating to the fullest, but we draw a line when fun surpasses safety. Boating under the influence is negligent and sets you and all aboard your vessel up for a completely avoidable accident. So when you hit the water this boating season, take the advice that the Sober Skipper program promotes: designate a sober skipper and, once safely back on land, buy them a beer or two. That seems like a win/win situation to us.