What to NOT do when boating
It’s a nice day and everyone is having a great time. Maybe you’re running your Boat through and inlet or skimming across the bay or big lake, when suddenly out of nowhere, you hear the wail of a siren. You twist your head around and sure enough, there’s a Boat with a flashing light bearing down on you, helmed with a guy in a uniform and he’s not smiling.
Looking for a calm spot to tie up, you throttle back and grab some fenders. As the Water Cops pull up alongside your Boat, all you can think is, “What did I do wrong?”
The truth is that maybe you haven’t done anything wrong that you’re aware of. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to escape this encounter with a tip of the cap and a friendly wave goodbye.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, here are the top 10 most common offenses that Powerboaters are likely to get busted for, listed from the most common to the least, many of which you might be violating but not know it:
- Missing personal flotation devices. Yeah, yeah maybe they’re clumsy and uncomfortable and look totally uncool, but there’s supposed to be at least one PFD for each person on your Boat. It’s the law and even more important, someday it could save your life as well as those of your crew. Don’t leave the dock without them!
- State and Federal documents missing or improper markings. What? No owner’s registration?! Come on, this is number 2?!
- Drunken Boating. Perhaps the most surprising fact about this violation is that it ranks only third. Want some advice? When you’re at the helm of a Boat, don’t drink a single drop. After all, a boat is a heavy and potentially dangerous piece of equipment, which means the operator should be in possession of all of his faculties all of the time.
- Missing or out-of-date visual distress siginal. A lot of Boaters are guilty of this, but here’s a tip: Don’t get rid of those old flares. They probably still work and someday might come in handy, so keep them onboard. There’s no law against it. Just wrap the old flares in a plastic bag, keeping them separate from the new ones.
- Fire extinguisher violation. If you’re found not to have the proper fire extinguisher onboard, guess what: You deserve a ticket.
- Inoperable or missing sound-producing device. To retaliate by saying to the Water Cop, “go honk yourself” is probably not a good idea. Also cranking your onboard radio wouldn’t work either.
- Inoperable or missing navigation lights. Here’s a thought: Check them out before you leave the dock. Simple way to avoid getting busted.
- Placard violation. Huh? What? You can get a citation for not having on your Boat noting the rules for proper oil or garbarge disposal. Bet you didn’t see that one coming!
- Negligent operation. In other words, the Water Cops are claiming that in their judgment you weren’t navigating in a prudent manner. Maybe you were running to fast through a no-wake zone or maybe you were freaking out the local manatee population! Obey the speed zones.
- No backfire flame control device in compartment space. This shouldn’t be much of a concern unless you’re operating a modified engine. But backyard mechanics and high-performance guys should take note.