There’s nothing worse than hitting the lake and realizing you don’t know how to properly launch your boat. By the time you pull up to the ramp, it’s too late to take a crash course in maneuvering. Instead, save yourself both time and embarrassment by taking a moment now to learn how to launch your boat the correct way.
That means preparing ahead of time by disconnecting electrical outlets and stowing all safety equipment, transom straps, and mooring lines inside the boat. It also means learning how to back up into the water slowly and in a straight line, making only fine-tuned corrections until the water is just above the wheels of the trailer. To get the best results, practice your moves ahead of time in an empty parking lot. That way, you’ll be ready for launching the moment you pull up to the ramp.
Follow these simple steps outlined in our infographic, and you won’t have to fiddle haphazardly with your mooring lines and winch straps to the tune of honking horns and the shouts of impatient drivers.
There is nothing better than spending a day on your pontoon boat. But as you may know, it can be very stressful if you don’t properly plan your excursion. Imagine a day on your boat where you visit the same area and do the same activities as the time before, more for lack of imagination than because of the fun quotient. Not to mention the chaos that can ensue if there isn’t enough food, water, or sunscreen for everyone in the party!
Aside from the “dos” and “do nots” for planning a day on the water, there are numerous fun ideas you and your family can try:
- Explore: Instead of visiting the same place every time, mix it up and boldly go where you haven’t been before.
- BBQ: If your pontoon boat has a grill on it, why not enjoy a beach BBQ?
- Scavenger Hunt: Invent a scavenger hunt where you stop at various places and solve clues. Will there be buried treasure at the end?
- Mega Raft: If your friends all have pontoon boats, tie up all the boats together and make a mega raft.
- Waterproof Camera: There is no better way to capture the day and take some memorable underwater photos.
Remember proper and creative planning, and you are sure to have an exciting day on the water. Keep reading or download our infographic below for more tips for family fun on the water.
Involve Your Kids from the Beginning
Kids want to be included, and giving them small tasks can be rewarding for them. These can be little things, like making sure everyone has their life jacket on, or looking for wildlife.
Plan Activities for Your Boating Adventure
Boat trips work best when there are planned activities for you and your family. These will prevent everyone from getting bored.
Bring the Sunscreen
Water can reflect the sun’s rays and amplify them. Make sure to apply sunscreen throughout the day, and spend time in the shade. It’s better than spending an evening tenderly applying aloe.
Bring Snacks and Drinks
Drinking water throughout the day, especially when it’s hot, can prevent dehydration and other heat injuries. Also, a day on the water can pass by quickly, and kids will become hungry. Bringing food with you means more time on water, instead of heading back sooner than you want.
Teach Nautical Terms and Rules
Since you’re on a boat, it’s an opportune time to teach your kids about nautical terms and science facts—everything from which side is starboard, to nautical safety rules, to why the tides go in and out.
The Do Nots
Do Not Leave the Dock without Life Jackets
Aside from obeying child life jacket requirements, there’s always a possibility that little ones can fall off the boat accidentally. It’s important to keep them safe.
Do Not Sail All Day
If you’re planning a longer trip, try to mix it up so you’re not on the water all day. Even if it’s docking or going to a beach for 30 minutes, let the kids run around.
Do Not Ignore Safety
Don’t let your kids stand or walk around while the boat is moving. Pontoon boats can be very safe, but you can never be too careful.
Do Not Trash the Beach
Littering on your excursion to the beach isn’t just rude, but it can hurt environment. When you see floating trash on the open water, pick it up.
Do Not Bring the Whole Neighborhood
Pontoon boats have a set number of people who can safely travel on the boat. Don’t go over that number.
Spending a day on the water can be exciting for everyone aboard, but taking time to plan ahead can make all the difference for creating a successful and memorable family experience.
This article was updated with links and more information on 6/20/2018.
Just like in your home, you should implement an emergency preparedness plan on your boat. Regardless of where you boat you should always identify potential threats. Then evaluate what types of resources you will need if any emergency arises. Your needs will vary based on the type of boating you do and the distance from shore that you travel. You should also develop an emergency plan and keep a kit with appropriate items on your boat at all times.
You should always check the weather before planning a day on your boat. Conditions on the water can become dangerous during even small weather events. Weather is also quick to change over the water, it is important to stay aware and return to shore before conditions get severe. Wind, rain, thunderstorms, hurricanes and tsunamis are all potential threats when on the water. Look into what threats your area is susceptible to and how to prepare for them on the CDC website.
Hurricanes and severe storms are usually easy to track. By checking the weather forecast ahead of time you can avoid these types of conditions. If a hurricane is expected you should get your boat to a proper storage facility well beforehand and evacuate the area.
Tsunamis are a succession of oversized waves that occur after the displacement of large amounts of water. They can occur with or without warning, however, a common cause of tsunamis are earthquakes. If you are on the water and notice the trees on shore shaking and other telltale signs of an earthquake, you should evaluate your best course of action. Tsunami waves only break close to shore, if you are in deep water far from the shore, you may not have any indication of the tsunami waves moving underneath you. Become familiar with the protocols for tsunamis and look at the International Tsunami Information Center’s information on what to do while on a boat if there is a tsunami warning.
A good skipper always prepares for the worst and hopes for the best. When preparing you should make a list of general items, but also include things that are specific to your family and their needs. An emergency kit is not one-size fits all, things like asthma inhalers, allergen free foods and insulin are all things that should be considered when preparing. The following are less specific items that any good boat emergency kit should contain.
- NOAA Weather Radio- Keeping track of the forecast and any emergency broadcasts can help you avoid severe weather.
- Clean water- Salt or lake water are not going to be sufficient if you are stranded and need to stay hydrated.
- Food and a way to prepare it- Store foods that are high in protein and nutritious. Having a heat source if not only good to keep you warm but also for preparing any foods that need to be warmed.
- Extra clothing- Extra layers and dry clothes to change into from your wet ones are good to keep on board.
- Shelter- Shelter from the sun and rain are both important. Many boats have built in shelters, but a tarp or sheet can easily be used as a makeshift shelter.
- First aid kit- For anything from bumps and bruises to broken bones, bug bites and open wounds.
- Paddle- In case you encounter engine troubles it is good to have an alternate form of propulsion.
- Something to bail out water- If it rains hard enough your boat might not be able to keep up with pumping water out of the boat. Having a bucket or two to help bail it out can save your boat from capsizing.
- Tools- Spare tools and parts for your boat can become vital if you encounter mechanical problems while in the water.
- Lighting- Not only to help you see but to help others see you in hazy conditions.
- Compass and map- GPS devices are great but having a backup plan with a map and compass will always be a good idea. Ensure that you know how to use them.
- Duct tape- Duct tape can be utilized in so many different ways, it’s always good to have a on your boat because of its versatility.
Not only should you have a plan and the proper emergency items, but you should also take a class or research about emergency procedures. Things like first aid and boat repair techniques can make the difference between life and death. Having the items is pointless if you don’t know how to use them, there are plenty of resources online to review and learn from.
If there’s anything Navigation Officer for Greenwood Lake Police Department Richard VanDermark is eager to share with others, it’s that his own life was saved because he was wearing a life jacket.
On a warm August day, he was tubing with his grandchildren on Greenwood Lake and his son-in-law was at the controls of his pontoon boat. As he was pushing his granddaughter up onto the deck of the boat after tubing, he slipped, hit his face on the deck, and fell back into the water.
“The next thing I remember was my son-in-law doing CPR on me,” he said. “When I woke up things were foggy but I do remember I could not breathe very well, [I was] making loud wheezing sounds and looking at my terrified grandchildren.”
After his near death experience, he looks at life a lot different, he said. There is a fine line between life and death and all the little things count.
When speaking to individuals that refuse to wear life jackets, VanDermark said he shares his personal experiences about pulling bodies out of the water. Those people would not have drowned had they been wearing life jackets.
He said he always wears his life jacket on and off duty to promote a positive image to other people. He strongly supports the Wear It! campaign and would like to see New York law changed so that everyone must wear life jackets, not just those under 12 years old.
“If I was not wearing my life jacket I would not be here today to share my experience with others,” he said.
Another memorable experience VanDermark had was when he was on patrol and came across a paddle boat containing two young children that were not wearing life jackets. Because they said they did not have any, he gave them two life jackets from the patrol boat.
Later on, he said a thunder and lightning storm arose and his mind went back to the children. After responding to their location, he found their boat sinking and them in the water. He was able to pull the children into his boat, hook up the paddle boat, and return to shore safely.
“If I did not give the children [life jackets] they would have certainly drowned,” he said. “Everything turned out okay. That was a good day.”
We’ve chatted with a few people and asked what they believe the most important boating safety tips are. Here’s input from another person we spoke with:
Carolyn Stuberg, Founder and Executive Director of Alexandria School for Nannies
Stuberg said she has her skipper’s license and she owns three boats and a wave runner. Boating safety is taught at the school for nannies and the lake house.
- No children under 12 years old are allowed on the dock or in a boat without a life jacket
- Children’s life jackets must have collars with handles in case they fall into the lake. The vests must also have crotch straps and be approved by the United States Coast Guard
- Anyone using a wave runner must know how to swim
- No one without a skipper’s license is allowed to drive a wave runner or boat
- Those with skipper’s licenses must carries copies with them in a waterproof bag
- All persons being pulled behind the boat must have a spotter
- All spotters and riders must know the correct hand signals
- No barefoot wave riding
- No alcoholic beverages on the boat
Lastly, Stuberg said safety checks are mandatory before anyone takes out a boat or wave runner. All safety items including fire extinguishers and correct number of life jackets must be present.
Bonnie Russell, an independent legal publicist, still remembers her first day sailing years ago – the day she fell overboard into the San Francisco Bay without a life jacket.
Although she had her wisdom teeth removed the day before, she said she was invited by friends to go sailing on the first day of winter and accepted their offer. She spent the first little while sleeping, but later that afternoon she felt better and decided to pose for some pictures.
While posing, Russell said a sudden wave emerged and slapped the side of the boat, causing her to lose her balance. She quickly tried to grab the boom to hang on, but missed it by inches.
“Going over the stanchion backwards, as I looked at the water I remember thinking, ‘Oh boy – this is going to be cold,’” she said.
After she surfaced, she said she instinctively began swimming toward the boat. However, it was gaining quite a bit of distance from her and she quickly realized she would drown if she kept trying to go after it. Although someone was spotting her, they forgot to throw a life ring to her.
Russell said the wind began to pick up and she saw the sail on the boat coming down as they turned the motor on. All that was on her mind was a story her friend in the Coast Guard told her about snagging a shark in the bay while fishing.
“I focused on floating as high up in the water as possible, and not panicking as I wondered how far into the Bay sharks came,” she said.
Russell said a man that liked her jumped overboard and attempted to rescue her despite the disapproval from the rest of the boaters on board. Because he had been drinking, she refused his offer to save her and swim to Berkeley.
Her rescuer ended up being a friend who was actually on the boat, she said. Once they caught up to her, she tried to climb up the ladder and was pulled on board. The entire rescue effort took about eight minutes.
“Everyone commented how small I looked in the water,” she said. “I was too cold too unzip my parka, and wasn’t talking much as my teeth were chattering at a pretty good clip.”
Russell said the man that jumped in after her made it back onto the boat, but he was in shock and partly hypothermic. Later on the friends discovered a photo that was taken of the man jumping overboard and one of the other men on board shouting “NO!”
Although she said she still sails, Russell offers two basic rules she learned from that day. One, don’t swim after the boat. Two?
“Remember it’s the guy in the boat who will save you, not the guy who jumps in the water,” she said.
If there’s one thing former Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway Water Patrol Officer Adam Lucas has learned, it’s that you don’t need to be in the water to have a boating accident.
Running late one morning, he said he quickly hooked up a patrol boat to his truck and rushed to the lake to meet with another officer. While traveling across a rough bridge, he noticed an unusually loud sound. Naturally, he glanced into his rear view mirror.
“I saw my boat going left when my truck was still going straight,” he said. “The trailer had come off its hitch and was dragging on the safety chains behind the truck.”
Panicking, Lucas said he slammed on the breaks, which caused the trailer to slam into the back of his truck and damage the tailgate. Although no one was injured, his pride suffered quite a bit.
“The worst part of the whole experience was that my supervisor made me investigate my own accident and file an accident report that showed I was at fault for ‘failure to give full time and attention’”, he said.
Lucas said this experience taught him to always double checking a tow hitch to make sure it is properly secured. In addition, the tow chains must be fastened correctly. In his case they were, otherwise the person in the car behind his could have been seriously injured.
Another scary experience he said he had was when his coworker, dressed in full duty gear, fell overboard while trying to get a dog back on board. Because it was spring and the water was cold, the shock of falling in sucked up most of her strength.
“What made this scary was that the boat didn’t have a swim platform or any type of ladder to get her back in,” he said. “The shore was about a half mile away and she wasn’t wearing a life jacket.”
Using a rocking technique he learned during boating training, Lucas pushed his coworker into the water and pulled her up higher and higher as momentum built. Eventually, he was able to pull her over the stern and subsequently rescue the dog.
He said the most important safety tips are to steer all blind corners extra wide, wear a life jacket while on the water, and drink plenty of water while boating. As for the latter, cool breezes often mask heat exhaustion, which was their most common EMS call.
As one last piece of advice, Lucas said people should not think they won’t get caught or charged with a DWI while boating. Boating can be more dangerous than driving a car, especially if there is alcohol involved.
“During the summer, we made just as many boating DWI arrests as my fellow road officers made on the street,” he said.
We’ve chatted with a few people and asked what they believe the most important boating safety tips are. Here’s what one of them had to say:
Brian Kempf, Marine Services, State of New York
- Wear your life jacket
- Take a safe boating class
- Never boat and drink
- Always let others know where you’re going
- Bring a sound producing device
- Bring a phone or VHF radio
- Always dress for water temperatures
In addition, Kempf said National Safe Boating Week is essential for reinforcing the important considerations to be aware of before heading out into the water. Lack of life jackets or not wearing them when required are among the most noted violations, and they are essential to have on.
“Being prepared for unexpected water immersion greatly increases your chances of survival,” he said.
The most important point to take away is situational awareness, he said. That means paying attention to the waters, locales, weather, and remoteness.
Next week we will return with more posts on boating tips and cautionary boating tales, but we just wanted to offer a quick weekend update to refresh your memory on some of the important events happening.
Don’t forget today is the official start of the 2012 National Safe Boating Week and it runs through the 25th. Take a look at the Safe Boating Campaign website for more information, to join, or to see events.
Today also is the third-annual “Ready, Set, Wear It!” Life Jacket World Record Day. Everyone is looking to beat the 2011 record of 1,685 life jackets worn worldwide.
The National Safe Boating Week kickoff isn’t just about setting a record, however – everyone who spends time on the water is encouraged to find the perfect, properly fitting life jacket. There are numerous options based on comfort, build, and need.
Take this opportunity to refresh your own boating knowledge and share with others. It’s never too early to teach children about boating safety, nor is it a bad time to give your own boat a safety check. Businesses or clubs in your city also may be holding events in honor of National Safe Boating Week.
Hopefully the weather is beautiful for all of you this weekend! See you here on Monday!
As part of our series of posts on safe boating, we will be presenting four real stories of people who have had dangerous or scary boating experiences. These individuals have shared these tales in hopes of helping others who may encounter the same situations. Regardless of whether or not an accident is unavoidable, the most important factor is what’s ultimately learned from it.
There’s one unsettling boating experience Nevada resident Ken Beckstead will never forget.
While waterskiing at Kings River, he said he suddenly saw a jet boat traveling toward a narrow part of the river. The boat was equipped with a jetovator, a device that sprays water out of a jet propulsion system. Because the spray is about 50 feet high and 200 feet back, it cannot be traveled through due to risk of bodily harm.
Although Beckstead was able to get to the side of the river and away from the jet boat, he said other boaters had no escape route. One of the trapped boats contained children.
“The jet boat actually went over the top of the boat with kids in a side on collision,” he said. “The kids were pressed down in their boat by the jet boat hull.”
Ambulances were called, and there were no serious injuries, Beckstead said. However, it remains an example of how some people get terrible results from showing off their fast boats at the worst times.
“Luckily the jet boat had no external propeller,” he said. “The kids would have been cut to pieces.”
He said he remembers another similar story of a man on a jet ski who left the shore and was suddenly side impacted by a boat traveling about 60 miles per hour. No one saw the man lying face down in the water except Beckstead’s friend on shore.
“It was too far to swim out to the guy,” he said. “He died before anyone in the water saw him.”
He said although he has owned different kinds of freshwater and ocean boats for the past thirty years, he never utilized fast speeds unless he was the only boat around for at least a mile. If the motor in any jet propelled vessel suddenly dies, the driver has no control over steering or braking.
He suggests never letting anyone without experience drive a boat because the wakes can sink a boater not familiar with crossing waves correctly. In addition, people should scan around their boat at least every minute for their own safety.
“The best advice I can give is to take a safe boating class,” Beckstead said. “Once you actually get on the water there is only one rule, never trust anyone.”