Summer Boating Safety Hints

2010 Safe Boating Campaign

California rivers are running faster and colder this summer and reservoir water levels are higher than they have been in several years making the water more dangerous. The Division of Boating and Waterways urges boaters to boat safely.

Some key boating safety tips to keep in mind this summer:

  • Take a boating safety course.
  • Learn the boating rules of the road.
  • File a float plan to let someone know where you expect to be, and when you expect to return.
  • Prepare for the worst, wear a life jacket.
    • Life jackets can provide some thermal protection against the onset of hypothermia and keep you afloat until someone else can rescue you.
    • Knowing how to swim is one of the most common reasons given for not wearing a life jacket and gives boaters a false sense of security. Often the victim has a serious injury or is knocked unconscious and cannot swim.
    • Other factors that can affect swimming ability include cold water immersion, heavy clothes or alcohol consumption.
  • Know the water.
    • Cold water can cause hyperventilation contributing to fatigue. When combined with swift water, even the strongest swimmers are easily overwhelmed.
    • Cold water can stimulate the "gasp reflex" causing involuntary inhalation of air or water.
    • Sudden cold water immersion can trigger cardiac arrest.
    • Cold water entering the ear canal can cause vertigo and disorientation. This may confuse the swimmer causing the victim to swim deeper into the water or into the propeller.
  • Know your limits.
    • Swimming in open water is more difficult than in a swimming pool. People tire more quickly and can get into trouble.
    • Properly load your vessel. Look at the capacity place on your boat and do not exceed the limits.
    • Avoid alcohol consumption while boating. If you do consume alcohol, wear a life jacket.
    • Drinking alcohol can also accelerate the effects of hypothermia.

Boaters are also reminded of a new life jacket age requirement. Children under the age of 13 are now required to wear a life jacket when on a moving boat that's 26 feet in length or less.