As boating season reaches full swing, many boaters will read news articles highlighting the injuries and fatalities of fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Safety on the water is paramount for all aboard. Increasing security when enjoying a day on the water doesn't require lots of updated equipment, but some common sense and practical knowledge always helps. Below is some information geared to help ensure more boaters don't become a headline.

First, all boaters should take boating safety courses, which are offered throughout the US for all types of boaters. Through these courses, boaters can learn about many aspects of safety, from boat handling to reading the weather. Since many accidents occur from operator error, knowing the rules of the water can help cut the chances of an accident. Also, boat owners should undergo a vessel safety check on an annual basis. This ensures a boat meets minimum safety standards and has all the necessary equipment to save lives and call for help in an emergency. Safety checks take place at the boat, can be scheduled at the owner's convenience and only take about 30-45 minutes.

Another important rule boaters must follow, is to always wear a life jacket when underway. It can be tempting to boat without one, especially when it's a beautiful day, but many accidents happen too fast for boaters to grab their life jacket in time. Many modern life jackets come in a variety of colors, shapes, materials and sizes, so everyone can find the perfect fit. Boat owners should research USCG requirements and life jackets in general before making a purchase.

No accident is planned for, but a float plan can help during dangerous situations. Since there are so many facts that need to be remembered, it's important to write them down so rescue personnel can find a boat more easily. Float plans are essential for all types of boats, from a small kayak to a 60' yacht. A specific member of the crew should be assigned the responsibilities of preparing the form and filing it.

Lastly, many unfortunate accidents occur when owners and their guests go swimming off the boat and end up drowning for a variety of reasons. To help in these situations, Soft Lines offers its Personal Boat Safety Lines. They can be used on all sailboats, powerboats or other watercraft. Offered in two styles, one has a stainless steel spring hook to attach to a life vest, the other has a slip leash end to slip around a person's wrist or waist. It is then set in place with an adjustable snugger. These safety lines can also be used on the beach to ensure kids or amateur swimmers don't go out too far.

Boating is a great way to spend time outdoors with friends and family, but it's even better when all boaters are safe. Practical knowledge and preparedness can help ensure a smooth cruising adventure for all.

Tom Gazdik