Stay Safe On The Lake

It’s a Good Time to Check Your Boat’s Safety Gear

Don’t arrive at a launch ramp and find your on-board safety equipment missing or in need of repair.  The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary recommends that you check your boat’s safety equipment and make sure it’s in top operating condition. The following safety items are essential (and required by law):  

Life jackets –one wearable Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person on board in good, serviceable condition, of appropriate size and type for the intended user and readily accessible.

Throwable floatation – Boats 16 feet and longer (except kayaks and canoes) must carry one throwable device (cushions, ring buoys, etc.)

Visual distress signals – Vessels over 16 feet must be equipped with day and night visual distress signals; vessels less  than 16 feet are not required to carry day signals but must carry night signals from sunset to sunrise.  Signaling devices include pyrotechnic devices (flares and smoke), orange distress flags and electric distress lights.  Check if you are unsure of what devices are required for your vessel.

Fire extinguishers – Coast Guard-approved, marine-type fire extinguishers, fully charged, are required on boats propelled by machinery mounted where they can be easily reached away from locations where a fire is likely start.  

Sound producing devices – include bells, horns, and whistles.

Navigation lights – Vessels are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility (fog, rain, haze, etc.).  Check the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules, International-inland for details.

Fueling Your Boat

COLUMBIA, SC-A fire on a boat is frightening and, often, fatal.  When fueling, chances of a fuel fire are heightened.  Gasoline fumes are highly flammable.  Here are some precautions:

  • Close all of the windows and doors before fueling.
  • Frequently check fuel lines and connections for leaks and worn spots.
  • Be sure all electrical devices are turned off, as well as the engine.
  • When gasoline passes through the hose, it generates static electricity.  If that ‘sparks’ with the fumes at the fuel tank fill point, an explosion can occur.  To dissipate the static electricity, keep the metal nozzle of the hose in contact with the metal part of the refueling opening.
  • Try not to spill any fuel during the process.
  • When fueling is complete, securely fasten the gas cap.
  • Open up all windows and doors to ventilate.
  • If you have inboard or inboard/outboard engines run the bilge blower.  Run the fan for at least five minutes.  (It’s a good idea to run this blower before ANY engine start, since even a small leak can produce lots of fumes.)
  • No Smoking!  

Use your nose!  If you smell gas, shut everything down and find the source.

Another fire hazard is cooking fires, either from propane tanks, stoves or grills.  Be sure all connections are tight.  Install a fire extinguisher close to the galley.

Boats less than 26’ must have at least one B-1 extinguisher.  Boats between 26’ and less than 40’ must have two B-1s or one B-2.  When buying your extinguishers buy the ones that have “ABC” printed on them.  They will put out combustible material and liquids (such as gasoline or grease), and electrical fires. The number indicates the capacity – II is larger than I.  As to how many and what size to buy, more and larger is the way to go.  Make sure fire extinguishers are Coast Guard approved.

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