Given the large number of lakes and waterways in and around the Sacramento area, it’s unsurprising that boating accidents happen here frequently. Sometimes serious injuries or accidents happen due to inexperience and a lack of experience or grasp of basic safety knowledge. But tragic accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of training or experience.
In October, a retired corporate lawyer from Boise, Ken Pursley—a founding partner of Givens Pursley—drowned in a boating accident on the Amazon River. While details are scarce, apparently Pursley was on a fishing trip when his boat became caught in rapids and overturned. While Pursley was killed, it appears that nobody else on the boat was seriously harmed.
Even on a tranquil lake, a day out on a boat can take a turn for the worst if you don’t keep safety in mind. Here are a few tips to help you remember how you can keep your friends and family safe out on the water.
1. Wear a lifejacket.
While parents tend to be good about making sure that their children have PFDs (personal flotation devices), adults often neglect having PFDs of their own. You may be a strong swimmer, but the nature of a boating accident—such as a collision with another boat, or falling, striking your head on a railing, and falling overboard—may render you unconscious or cause serious injury, leaving you unable to swim. Wearing a lifejacket is especially important when out on the water at night, in an area with a lot of other boats, boating by yourself, or in the midst of rough water and/or poor weather. If you want to take a break from your lifejacket, head to shore for a while—it’s a great excuse to have lunch or go on a short nature walk.
2. Stay out of marina waters.
Jumping into the water of a marina is a bit like playing in the middle of a backed up freeway. Boats are coming and going constantly, some are traveling too quickly, drivers are distracted, and accidents happen all too easily. Don’t go into the water until you’re well outside of the marina.
3. Don’t mess around with bad weather.
It can be difficult and disappointing to give up a long-planned fishing day. But when the weather gets stormy, don’t chance it. Water conditions can degrade quickly, and lightning is a serious threat when you’re surrounded by water. When bad weather shows up, it’s time to go home.
4. Stay hydrated.
There may be no injury as ironic as becoming dehydrated on a boat. But it happens all the time. With the sun beating down and the wind blowing, your body can be stripped of moisture extremely quickly. Bring plenty of water, juice, or other healthy and hydrating beverages when you go out on the water for the day.
5. Keep a first aid kit.
Serious injuries can easily occur. You only have to look at a prop or see a boat speeding by to understand why. Make sure that you have a standard first aid kit on board, and take special care to have plenty of supplies for stopping blood flow from serious injuries. Many of the people killed by coming in contact with a boat propeller die due to blood loss. With proper supplies, you’ll also be better able to assist others if you happen to come across the scene of an accident.
6. Know your limits.
Don’t overextend yourself. If you’re feeling tired or unwell, you significantly heighten the potential for unfortunate accidents. If you wouldn’t feel safe driving a car, then you shouldn’t be driving a boat.
7. Tell someone where you will be.
Even if you’re just heading out for a few hours, let a friend know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Tell your friend that you’ll check in with them when you get back, and to contact the authorities if they don’t hear from you. For those going on a long trip, it’s wise to write out what is called a “float plan.” A float plan is a document that includes a description of the boat, a list of the names of all passengers, and gives an itinerary that indicates where you’ll be at on certain days (or even at certain times). Once you’ve written your float plan, give it to a reliable person, such as a close friend, family member, or with personnel at the marina or club from which you’re launching, and ask them to provide it to the Coast Guard if you do not return on time. The US Coast Guard offers a float plan template on their site here. The USCG also has a mobile app for iPhones and Android phones on which you can fill out a float plan form and email it to up to three people.