Boating Satefy Tips
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Coast Guard Service is concerned about the safety of everyone who transits our territorial waters. We are recommending the following safety tips on safe operations of vessel whether you are plying your trade as a fisherman, operate tours or just enjoying the beautiful scenery of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
- Check the local weather forecasts before going out to sea.
- Wear a Personal Flotation Device. Bring a life jacket for everyone on board.
- Don’t drink alcoholic beverages and go fishing or boating. Stay sober, operating a boat under the influence is illegal and potentially dangerous for everyone.
- Take a Marine VHF DSC Radio. Cell phones are helpful, but the Coast Guard does not recommend their use as main communication device. Cell phones may not obtain signals while out at sea. We recommend that you invest in a VHF radio, preferably a VHF Digital Selective Calling (DSC) Radio that offers a strong signal and is monitored by the Coast Guard (channels 16 and 70).
- File a Float Plan before you leave for sea and share it with someone. Tell someone where you are going, how long you intended to stay and when you are expected back. Leave a written plan of the details of your intended voyage, your boat description, call sign, cell number, crew/passengers information, location and expected time back. Upon departure and return it is wise to tell the marina, Coast Guard, family or friends that you have departed or returned safely.
- Get your boat checked before you head out. Check with the Coast Guard, Fisheries Department, Fisherman Co-operative, Fishermen or other Boater for a free Vessel Safety Check; remember they might see things which could have been overlooked by you or your crew.
- Take Boating Safety Classes. Everyone can only benefit from a refresher course in boating safety. Groups can contact the Coast Guard for Boating Safety Courses.
- Cover Your Boat when not in use. Make sure your bilge pumps are operational and fitted with an automatic switch because heavy rains combined with wind driven waves can add weight to boats to the extent that they may sink within hours.
- Watch for large waves and debris. Large waves can and do carry debris that can damage boats when drag out to sea.
- Get familiar with applicable Rules and Regulations. A range of boating safety rules and regulations such as the Power Craft Act, SOLAS and Rules of the Road can only assist you to make wise and safe decisions at sea.
- Practice the 1/3 Rule. Remember 1/3 of your fuel to get you to your destination, 1/3 to bring you back and 1/3 reserve for unplanned fuel consumption.
Here are some of the Safety Boating Tips the Coast Guard wants boaters to practice every time they go out to sea:
- Request a free Vessel Safety check from the Coast Guard, Fisheries Department, Fishermen Cooperative or from another Boater to ensure your vessel is seaworthy.
- Make and file a float plan with a family member, friend, Coast Guard, Marina, Fisheries Department or Signal Station before hitting the high seas. Plans should include personal information, information about the vessel, the intended destination and proposed return date/time, among other items of importance. This plan expedites the deployment of a search and rescue assets should a boat not return to port when expected.
- Be sure to check the weather before heading out
- Do not mix alcoholic beverages and boating without designating a sober boat operator. It’s not only dangerous but illegal under the Power Craft Act to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol.
- Always wear a life jacket. Statistics indicated that more than 80 % of drowning victims from boating related incidents were not wearing life jackets.
- Consider purchasing and registering a Very High Frequency Digital Selective Calling (VHF DSC) Handheld radio. This provides you with a single touch of a button to relay your distress location and nature of distress to the Coast Guard and other vessel fitted with DSC radios should a problem arise while you are at sea.
- Be sure to have a Compass, Anchor, VHF Radio, GPS, Fire Extinguisher, flares and First Aid Kit on board at all time.
- Don’t use the term “mayday” when conducting a radio check. This term is reserved for emergency situations only.
- Boaters in distress should not hesitate to contact the Coast Guard immediately; however it is important that boaters/mariners remember to notify the Coast Guard if they are no longer in need of assistance. If you do require assistance or rescue, notify the Coast Guard through VHF channel 16/DSC channel 70/457-4578/482-4578 immediately.
- Boaters are advised to avoid making hoax calls to the Coast Guard, deployment of assets is costly and Boaters can be fine or in prison for making such a call.
No matter how much experience you have as a boater (fisherman, recreational boater, boat crew member); it’s always a good idea for everyone to review boating safety tips/rules periodically. Below are eleven (11) recommended Basic Boating Safety Tips to help you stay safe during your next trip underway:
Always check local weather conditions before venturing out to sea; television, internet (smart phone) and radio forecasts are good sources of information. If you notice darkening clouds, volatile and rough changing winds or sudden drops in temperature while at sea, play it safe by returning to your home port or the nearest port.
Follow a Pre-Departure Checklist
Boating safety includes being prepared at all times for any possibility on the water. Establishing and following a pre-departure checklist is the best way to ensure no boating safety rules or precautions have been overlooked or forgotten.
Use Common Sense
One of the most important things in being a safe boater is to always use your common sense. This means operating your boat at a safe speed at all times (especially in crowded areas such as beaches and ports), staying alert at all times and steering clear of large vessels and watercraft that can be restricted in their ability to stop or turn.
Designate an Assistant Skipper
Make sure more than one person on board besides yourself is familiar with all aspects of your boat’s handling, operations, familiar with the area of operation and general boating safety. If the Captain/navigator is injured or incapacitated, someone should be capable of taking the boat safely back to shore.
Develop a Float Plan
Whether you choose to inform a the Coast Guard, Signal Station, a family member or staff at your marina, always be sure to let someone else know your Float Plan. The Float Plan should include where you are going and how long you are going to be gone for.
A float plan can include the following information:
- Name, address, and phone number of Captain
- Name and phone number of all crew/passengers
- Boat type, colour, engine size and registration information Trip itinerary
- Types of communication and signal equipment on board, such as VHF radios, GPS, EPIRB etc.
- Make Proper Use of Life jackets
The majority of drowning victims from boating relating incidents are boaters not wearing their life jackets. Make sure your family, friends or crew are not part of this statistic by purchasing, assigning and fitting each member on board with a life jacket prior to departure. If you have it, Wear it!
Boating safety shall be practice at all times. By saving the alcohol for when you return to shore, the probability of being involved in a boating accident decreases. Studies conducted have indicated that when alcohol is consumed before or during boating, its effects are exacerbated by sun, sea and wind.
Learn to Swim
If you are going to be engaged in boating, it is prudent that you and your occupants learn how to swim.
Take a Boating Course
Boaters, experienced or beginners need to be familiar with the boating safety rules, navigation rules and the boat operations. You can learn boating safety rules by talking to your local Fishermen Cooperative, Fisheries Department, the Coast Guard or online course to educate yourself.
Consider Requesting a Free Vessel Safety Check
Request a free Vessel Safety Check from the Coast Guard, Fisheries Department, Fishermen Cooperative or from another boater to ensure your vessel is seaworthy, remember they may spot something that you will overlook.
Practice the 1/3 Rule. Remember 1/3 of fuel your to get you to your destination, 1/3 to bring you back and 1/3 reserve for unplanned fuel consumption.