Alumacraft boat owners take to the water for fun and adventure, but the number one priority on every outing should be safety. Here are five tips to ensure you, your family, and friends are safe while enjoying time on the water.
Everyone Wears a Life Jacket
Wearing a life jacket and insisting that everyone on your Alumacraft boat also wears one, is the number-one thing you can do to be safer on the water. It’s not enough to just have life jackets on board. Thinking you’ll grab a life jacket after there’s an accident, or after you fall overboard, is like thinking you’ll put on your seat belt after an auto accident starts.
Here are the hard facts from the U.S. Coast Guard: 76 percent of boating deaths are drownings, and 84 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. When people fall out of a boat, they may become disoriented, injured, or unconscious. Life jackets can keep a person’s head above water so they can breathe and be rescued.
There are many life jacket options available that offer outstanding comfort in most conditions. Chose the best life jacket for your boating activity and make certain that kids are wearing a life jacket that fits properly.
Be a Sober Captain
We all know boat owners who would never drink and drive on land, but they seem to think it’s no problem on the water. But according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, alcohol use is the primary contributing factor in boater fatalities. Consuming alcohol negatively impacts vision, balance and reaction times and can cause dehydration.
Environmental stressors such as wind, noise, and vibrations of the boat can heighten the effects of alcohol on the water compared to on land. Alcohol consumption while boating is also dangerous for passengers. Impairment can lead to slips, falls overboard, and injuries that could have been prevented. If passengers do choose to drink, encourage them to do so in moderation, and to stay hydrated by also consuming plenty of water.
Check the weather before every outing and then monitor the weather while on the water to avoid getting caught in a sudden storm. Cell phone weather apps can be very accurate, but the cell signal might not be available on bigger, remote lakes.
You can usually count on Weatheradio Canada transmitters broadcasting on the Very High Frequency (VHF) public service band using one of seven frequencies: 162.400, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.500, 162.525, or 162.550 MHz. The average range for reception of the broadcast signal is approximately 60 km from the transmitter site, but this can vary depending on the terrain.
You can count on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts and updates available 24/7 through Very High Frequency (VHF) radio broadcasts. All modern fixed and hand-held VHF radios can tune in to the forecasts.
The information is localized and includes warnings when dangerous weather erupts. A VHF marine radio can also be used to contact the Coast Guard or local water patrol for assistance and is an essential tool to have on boat any boat.
In the early and late fishing seasons its especially important to be prepared for cold water and weather by monitoring the forecast and dressing properly. If you do get caught out in a sudden squall, use rough-water boat handling skills to navigate to safety.
Use the Engine Cut Off Switch (ECOS)
If you are not using the ECOS (please feel free to call it a kill switch) on your boat, it’s probably because you find it inconvenient, or even annoying. But clipping that red lanyard to your belt or to your life jacket will instantly shut down the boat motor if you go overboard or get thrown away from the helm.
It may also prevent you from being run over by your own boat. An unmanned, out of control boat may circle ejected occupants, often running them over, and resulting in severe injury or death from a propeller strike.
A wireless ECOS system is an alternative you can install on your Alumacraft boat that eliminates the lanyard, replacing it with wearable fobs or wristbands that send a signal to a receiver hub on the boat. If the captain, a passenger or a pet is overboard the signal is interrupted and the hub electronically cuts the engine.
Know Before You Go
All operators of motorized recreational pleasure craft are required to hold a valid Transport Canada accredited Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC). The PCOC is proof of competency to operate a recreational boat with a motor. It is required for any craft fitted with a internal combustion or electric motor, even if the motor is not in use, for example an auxiliary motor on a sailboat.
A PCOC is good for life and valid across Canada. To obtain a PCOC you must pass an accredited test. The first step is to follow the mandatory study on the internet for a minimum of three hours, and then pass the Transport Canada test. The current fee for the study course, exam and card is $49.95, with discounts for families taking the course and exam together.