National Safe Boating Week (NSBW) is an annual kickoff to boating safety awareness and this year, it will be held on May 21-27, 2022. It’s no coincidence that it falls just before Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the boating season for many across the country. NSBW is a great time to prepare your boat and yourself for a safe summer.
Follow these tips and get out on the water early during National Safe Boating Week, so everything is fresh in your mind for the long weekend.
1. Refresh your boating knowledge with an online course. Check out America’s Boating Course and the BoatUS Foundation for coursework at various levels.
2. Make sure you have a boater card or certification, if your state requires it.
3. Check your boat’s systems including the engine, navigation and communication electronics, lights and pumps. You may consider taking your boat to a dealer for a safety check or spring commissioning.
4. Run through onboard safety items and note their condition. This includes life jackets, fire extinguishers, signaling devices like a mirror and flares, and the medical kit. Put fresh batteries into flashlights and headlamps, and make sure your VHF is sending and receiving by doing a radio check.
5. Buy new personal floatation devices, if your kids have outgrown them, you’ve added a pet aboard, or you want to upgrade to inflatable harnesses.
6. Make lists in advance, not only will making these lists help you remember procedures, making them during NSBW means you won’t have to reinvent the wheel all summer long.
- Create guidelines for what guests should bring
- What to cover in an onboard safety briefing
- Where to find safety equipment
- How to operate the VHF for non-boaters
- How to file a float plan
- The steps in a crew overboard drill
7. Discuss the importance of sober boating with your family and friends, and always have a designated driver who can operate the boat safely. A BUI is no joke.
8. Dial in your favorite weather apps. Have more than one and make sure you check them before and during each boating outing.
9. Update your charting software, and make sure your favorite waypoints and routes have been saved from last year.
10. Include your kids in NSBW activities by teaching them the “rules of the road.” Highlight the most basic rules like the boat on the right has the right of way, sailboats before powerboats, human-powered boats before any other craft, passing oncoming vessels port-to-port, and “red-right-returning” when heading back to port.
11. Use your engine cutoff switch (ECOS), per the law that was enacted in April 2021.
12. Practice your knots and teach them to your children or partner. The minimum is a cleat and clove hitch, and a bowline. You’ll soon have capable helpers tying fenders to the boat or the boat to a dock.
13. Teach your partner or kids how to keep a proper lookout whether offshore or coming into an anchorage. They can be an extra set of eyes in busy boating situations.
14. Discuss the value of boating etiquette, including anchoring like others who are already in an anchorage, good launch ramp behavior, and making space at the fuel dock. There’s no replacement for courtesy.
15. Practice everything. Close quarters maneuvering, docking, and anchoring all take practice so spend a day of NSBW doing drills. Spin the boat in its length, approach different docks from different angles, and switch up your normal anchoring routine with your partner. You’ll be amazed by how quickly everything becomes second nature and you’ll look like a pro when the summer begins.
National Safe Boating Week is a designated time to brush up on your skills and knowledge and maybe even make this a time of bonding over boating. Divide the tips across the seven days and you’ll not only be prepared for summer, you’ll have fun in the process of getting ready.