With more than 300 navigable reservoirs in Texas, local boating enthusiasts take to the water each summer to fish, ski, sail or just soak up some sun. While fun is the ultimate goal, it’s important to keep in mind some basic boating rules to avoid disaster.
“The most prevalent cause that I see for boating accidents is excessive drinking. People out on the lake are having too much fun in the sun and stop paying attention to what they are doing,” Brad says. Alcohol plays a role in nearly 80 percent of all boating accidents. “There really is no difference between a BUI (Boating Under the Influence) and DUI (Driving Under the Influence). If you refuse to take a breathalyzer, you can still lose your driver’s license.”
Remember, there are no traffic rules out on the lake. “It’s so important that there is a lookout…someone to keep watch for other boats or unexpected obstacles, especially if there are skiers.”
Children under 13 years of age must wear a life vest in Texas, and there must be a personal flotation device for each person on board. “Don’t just have life jackets on the boat, but make sure everybody wears them. When an emergency happens, you shouldn’t be scurrying around and searching in a compartment. By then it’s too late,” Brad says.
Having a firm understanding of the rules of navigation is imperative. Anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993 must take a boater education certification course to operate certain vessels on public waterways. These courses are taught by US Coast Guard Auxiliary, US Power Squadron, trained instructors and game wardens.
Brad recommends, “If you are involved in a boating accident, first seek medical treatment and make sure you are OK. Next you need to get with an attorney and help navigate through the process. Calling the insurance company and opening a claim should also be among your preliminary action items. Accidents on the water are really no different than car or trucking accidents.”
Boating Safety and Maintenance Checklist
Preparing your boat for spring is one of the most essential things you can do to guarantee its long-term health and maintenance. With this checklist, you should extend your boat’s life and ensure a happy and safe spring season.
- Make sure electrical equipment is off and safe to handle before inspecting.
- Inspect all of the connections and wiring—you’re looking for healthy connections here, free of corrosion. If you do see corroded wiring, be sure to remove and replace them.
- Make sure your battery is charged—it may even help to have its efficiency tested to make sure that it’ll keep the charge when you’re out on the water.
- Better yet, have a technician inspect your electrical work. It doesn’t take very long and therefore doesn’t require a major investment, and it will ensure safe inspection and maintenance.
Fuel and Engine
- Look for leaks. Look for damage. Look for anything that might suggest your fuel system is not 100% efficient. You want smooth fuel systems, not brittle, dried-out wiring and hoses.
- Replace your components; don’t look to simply repair them, especially if you don’t know how.
- Ensure all clamps, fittings, and connections are still secure and working efficiently.
- Inspect your engine/exhaust and ventilation to make sure that it’s free of damage and will be able to run efficiently.
- Propellers should be free of cracks and excessive damage; otherwise they won’t catch water efficiently and can even damage other parts. Check the area where your propeller is attached to your boat to ensure that it’s safely secured. Inspect your bearings, as well, to make sure they don’t need replacing.
- Inspect your hull to look for any cracks that would (obviously) be bad for boating.
- Ensure your drain plug is leak-free and secured in place before you launch your boat.
Fluids, Cables, Hoses, and Misc.
- The key here is to check for brittleness and cracking, as dry/cold winter weather can sometimes damage hoses and cables. Check your belts as well.
- Throttle and steering—as well as shift—are essential places to search for corrosion or damage, as they can lead to immediate, short-term damage elsewhere. Replace any parts that need replacing.
- Check all fluids, including oil, power steering, coolant, etc. to ensure they’re at appropriate levels.
- Don’t ignore your safety gear. Make sure you have enough life jackets to accommodate everyone throughout the season and that they’re still working well.
- Double-check your fire extinguisher’s size and regulation to make sure it’s right for your boat.
- If any part of your boat is enclosed, procure a carbon monoxide detector.
- Be sure to check with local government to ensure your boat is fully up to code before the season; this can save a lot of headaches later.
- Be thorough in your preparation for spring so that when the nice weather hits, your boat will be ready for the open water.