As Ohio moves from winter straight to a hot and sunny summer, I dream of days spent out on the water boating. I prefer the hand powered crafts such as kayaks and stand-up paddle boards to motorboats, but a quick spin on a Personal Watercraft will give me my adrenaline fix for the summer. Boating, whether it be canoeing, sailing, or powerboating is available to all Ohio residents and visitors because of the phenomenal water resources and public access points we have. Lake Erie and the Ohio River provide boating access for 3.1 million residents, and 99% of Ohio’s residents live within 36 miles of a water body large enough for powerboats, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
With these amazing recreational water activities, we must consider our safety and the safety of other people. Each year, more people are paddling, fishing from boats, or taking a day to chill on their pontoon boat. More people on the water means greater risk to water safety. Therefore, as a boater you must take responsibility and learn how to boat safely. Below are some tips to help you in your safe boating endeavor.
The type of equipment that is required for your vessel is determined by length, power source, and boating location. These requirements are established by the United States Coast Guard and the local Department of Natural Resources. Although equipment differs by vessel, all boats require the following four items.
- Type I, II, III or V type (see image) personal flotation device (PFD) for every person on the boat. If the boat is 18 feet or smaller and the person is 10 years or younger, the PFD must be worn. In all other cases, the PFDs must be on the vessel within arm’s reach. However, it is strongly encouraged to always wear your PFD.
- Sound signaling source such as a horn or whistle.
- Light signaling source such as a white light for paddle crafts and white, red, and green lights on sailing and motor vessels.
- Visual distress signals such as colored smoke flares or bright flags for daytime and burning flares for when it becomes dark.
Rules of Navigation
On the water, the least maneuverable boat has the right of way. Therefore, a large freighter would have the right of way since it cannot stop or turn quickly. If you see a freighter near your boat, you should give it plenty of space and stay out of its way. If you are paddling on a river that experiences a lot of boat traffic (Cuyahoga River for example) then you should treat it like the road. Remain as far to the right of the river as you can and look both ways before crossing to the other side.
Being on the water can take a physical toll on your body. Being in the sun and other elements quickly removes water from our body making it very important to drink lots of water and remember to replenish electrolytes. As a boater, you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times, so substances, such as alcohol, that reduce your ability to operate a vessel should not be used. Also, make sure you check the weather several times before you go out and while you are on the water. Weather can change quickly so it is important you are aware of your surroundings.
Lastly, you should ALWAYS BOAT WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Boating alone is very dangerous and should be avoided.
By reading this blog, you have received a basic understanding of safe boating, but I encourage you to learn more to make sure you and your loved ones will be safe on the water. Below are some materials that will help you in your safe boating quest, but taking the Ohio Boaters Education Course would be an important step and is required for anyone in the state of Ohio born after January 1, 1982 if they would like to operate a boat with a motor.
- A BOATER’S GUIDE TO THE FEDERAL REQUIREMENTS FOR RECREATIONAL BOATS AND SAFETY TIPS from the US Boat Foundation https://www.uscgboating.org/images/420.PDF
- Links to safe boating websites:
Jill Bartolotta is an Extension Educator for the Ohio Sea Grant College Program.