Boaters Safety Brush-Up
Whether you’ve been boating since birth, or it’s your first summer getting behind the wheel of your new boat, it’s a good idea for everyone to brush-up on boater’s safety before leaving your worries at the dock this year. We’ve included boater’s safety tips below to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.
Quick Disclaimer: This blog article is not intended to be a substitute for a boater’s safety course. We always recommend that any boater, but especially boaters that are inexperienced, take a boaters safety course.
TIP 1: Take A Boaters Safety Course
If you’ve never driven a boat before, and even if you have, it’s always a good idea to take a boater’s safety course. There are rules and laws to boating in Michigan that you need to know. Rules such as traveling in the right direction around a lake and laws surrounding Coast Guard requirements are vital information for every boater. If you have any doubts about these rules and regulations, it’s important you make time to take a boater’s safety course. They are inexpensive, available online, and simple to master quickly.
You can find information on Michigan Boaters Safety Certification HERE.
If you have younger individuals planning on driving your boat, it may be required that they have a boater’s safety card on board while operating the boat. Depending on the individual’s age and even the engine size, it may even be required that they be supervised while operating the boat.
The State of Michigan has clear rules on age restrictions HERE.
Briefly, the following is quoted from Michigan’s Boaters Safety Law about Age Restrictions:
Persons less than 12 years of age:
- May operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 hp legally without restrictions.
- May operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp but no more than 35 hp legally only if they:
- Have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat and…
- Are directly supervised on board by a person at least 16 years of age.
- May not operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp legally under any conditions.
Those born on or after July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally only if they have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat.
Those born before July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally without restrictions.
NOTE: There are different rules for Personal Watercraft (PWCs). If you plan on your child operating your PWC, it’s important that you know these laws.
TIP 2: Get A Free USCG Vessel Check
The U.S. Coast Guard offers complimentary boat examinations to ensure you have the proper safety equipment for your vessel and that it is in good working condition. Free of charge, they also offer virtual vessel exams.
While these are more common for boats going out on bigger bodies of water like Lake Michigan, they are good practice for every boater and can offer peace of mind.
TIP 3: Develop A Departure Checklist
Any time you launch your boat, you should double check your departure checklist. Things like ensuring life jackets are on board, proper anchors are secured, as well as maintenance and other emergency items (flares, whistles, etc.) should be added to the checklist and checked thoroughly before every departure.
We found a pretty good checklist HERE.
TIP 4: Prepare A Safety Kit
Being prepared with a well-equipped safety kit can help you through most situations you encounter on the water. By their definition, emergencies are unpredictable, so think through your kit. Below are some of the items we recommend adding to yours.
- Fire Extinguisher
- First Aid Kit
- Bucket and Pump
- Duct Tape
- Waterproof Whistle
- Extra Ropes (not anchor ropes) for towing and/or throwing to someone overboard
- Flashlight with fresh batteries
TIP 5: Life Jackets
Life jackets (PFDs) have come a long way since the bulky, orange, uncomfortable classics. These days they’re designed to keep someone's face up and even help prevent hypothermia. Everywhere you boat is going to require you to have a PFD on board for every passenger. Most states also require children under a certain age to wear them at all times while onboard.
Moreover, it’s important for anyone doing water sports like wakeboarding, skiing, or tubing - even those that are experienced - to have a PFD on. You never know when an accident might knock a boarder or skier unconscious.
Consider investing in a comfortable PFD for anyone that is going to be a regular on your boat. Try them on. Make sure you have a good range of motion while wearing them and that they fit snugly but not too tight.
It’s always good practice to have a flotation device attached with a long rope and secured to your boat at all times to throw to someone overboard and be able to bring them in, just in case.
TIP 6: Know The Weather
Be sure to check the weather forecast before heading out. Nevertheless, as we all know, the weatherperson can’t predict everything - this is especially true over bodies of water. And it’s even more true over large bodies of water like Lake Michigan.
Keep an eye out for varying gusts of wind and increasingly choppy water. These changes are often indicators of a storm rolling in. If the weather changes quickly for the worse, consider venturing closer to your launch point just in case.
TIP 7: Understand Boating Etiquette
Aside from boating laws and regulations, certain etiquette should be kept in mind when out on the water. Remember, you’re not the only one on the water. There are other boaters, as well as lake residents to consider when boating.
The following is a list of laws and "elements of respect" to ensure you are following both the written - and unwritten - rules of the water.
- Drive counter-clockwise around lake - this is the equivalent to lanes on a road.
- Maintain 100’ away from dock, raft, buoyed or occupied bathing areas, or vessels moored or at anchor.
- Maintain 200' away from the above if you're doing watersports.
- Pick the best times - based on lake traffic - to perform watersport activities.
- Know the time-of-day watersports are allowed to be performed on your lake - some lakes have stringent start and stop times to mitigate noise.
- Keep your distance from other boaters in general, but especially when doing watersports. You never know when someone may be in the water.
- Keep your music to a respectful volume when boating. If you're listening to explicit music be aware if there are children nearby that may be sensitive to the lyrics and turn your music down while passing them. It's just decent.
- Mind "no-wake zones" diligently. Not only are these zones designated for VERY specific reasons that should be respected, but you can be easily ticketed for going too fast through a no-wake zone.
TIP 8: Designate A Sober Skipper
If you’re of proper age, there’s nothing better than sipping adult beverages while you’re out on the water. But drinking while operating a boat is illegal and is responsible for nearly half of all boating accidents. Sheriffs can also ticket anyone they see operating a boat while intoxicated. Designate a sober driver before heading out - you’ll be happy you did.
TIP 9: Anchor...The Right Way
Dropping an anchor is a really nice way to stop and enjoy a single spot on the lake. But often boaters don't know how to properly anchor their boat and they end up drifting 100s of ft before they even realize it.
Depending on the wind, current, and conditions of the lake, one anchor may not be enough. You may need to drop two anchors in a V formation to ensure your boat is properly anchored so you don’t drift far from your chill spot.
Familiarize yourself with the different types of anchors, and the lake bed material (and type of boat) for which they work best. And if it’s windy, ensure you have an extra anchor!
TIP 10: Practice Responsible Wake
The increase in ballasted boats designed for wakeboarding and wake surfing has dramatically increased in recent years which has caused some ripples in the boating community. Primarily because ballasted boats, by their definition, create large wakes. These large wakes can damage docks and shorelines - calling for some lake associations and even states to consider banning the sport.
Also, wakeboarders and surfers have gained a reputation for “taking over” lakes - with intrusive “get out of my way” behavior and other things like music that is obtrusively loud.
The good news is, this is a simple fix. If you’re boarding or surfing, be cordial, and use common sense. Stay at least 200 ft from docks and the shoreline (even if your lake regulation is smaller), and avoid repetitive passes in the same area. Don’t be the bad seeds that get the rest of us banned from doing our favorite sport!
Premier Boating Is Committed To Boaters Safety
We’ve always been committed to boater's safety here at Premier, but this Summer, we’re stepping up our commitment. We’re planning on partnering with the DNR and Allegan County Sheriff this summer to have a booth set up near the boat launch at Gun Lake State Park. We'll be providing more information on boater’s safety, properly fitting PFD’s, and signing people up for boater's safety courses. Keep an eye out for us and we’ll be happy to answer all your questions!
Don’t see us out at the State Park? No worries. Our showrooms are just up the street from the Gun Lake County Park. Stop by and our team will be happy to assist you - whether you’ve purchased a boat from us or not.
In Conclusion: Use Common Sense
Boating safely doesn’t have to be a scary or difficult thing. At the end of the day, being prepared before you go out with the right kits and knowledge will go a long way. And when you’re out on the water, use common sense and just be aware of your surroundings. If you have any doubts about your knowledge, take a boaters safety course.
Knowing proper boating safety will help you have a ton of Summer Fun in 2021!
You can find more information on boater's safety courses and certifications HERE.