There’s nothing quite like setting sail on a beautiful fall day and enjoying the changing colors from the open water. But there are a few key things to keep in mind before you get in your boat this autumn. Here are some tips courtesy of Beth Leonard, director of technical services for BoatU.S.
Dress for the Weather
“In the fall, hypothermia can be a big hazard to boaters, especially if they get wet,” Leonard says. She advises dressing in layers, starting with a thin base layer, and avoiding things like jeans and cotton shirts, which do not dry as easily or retain heat as well as wool and synthetic materials. It’s also a good idea to bring along a separate bag of heavier clothing in case bad weather hits.
It’s vital to prepare a float plan and leave it with a friend or family member before you hit the water. “Float plans, like flight plans for planes, provide a record of where you intend to go and when you intend to return,” Leonard explains. “They ensure that someone will realize and begin a search immediately if you are overdue, but they also narrow the potential search area and increase the chances of locating you in a timely fashion.” Not sure how to prepare one? Here’s a handy float plan template.
Do a Systems Check
Leonard advises checking all boat systems before your voyage—especially during the fall, when there are fewer boaters on the water to help if you run into trouble.
On inboard boats, check all fluid levels and have a look at the bilge to make sure water isn’t getting in. It’s also worth checking the engine belts and making sure that water is coming out of the exhaust and the batteries are charging when you start the engine.
On trailerable boats, be sure to check the steering before the boat leaves the ramp. Check the fuel before you get on the water and check the drain plug once you’ve launched. Also make sure the engine is running properly and allowing water to pass through.
Be sure your navigation lights are working properly if you’ll be out after dark, and carry a handheld radio with digital selective calling (DSC) so you can send a distress signal to the Coast Guard if you run into trouble.
If you’re going more than 20 miles offshore, bring a personal locator beacon (PLB) or an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB). Either of those will allow you to be located by satellite in the event of an emergency.
Finally, make sure you have the right type and size of life jackets for everyone aboard. Once you’ve checked off all the boxes, you’re ready to set sail. Bon voyage!
Taking proper steps before heading out on the water also means selecting the right kind of boat insurance for your needs. Find out how GEICO can help meet your needs, no matter what kind of boat you own.
Continue reading: Tips for Safe Boating