The attorneys at Elk & Elk wish all of you an enjoyable boating season and encourage everyone to stay safe on and near the water. Boaters need to be especially careful, use common sense and take the steps necessary to avoid tragedy on the water. Follow these basic safety tips as you enjoy Ohio’s lakes and rivers with family and friends.
Don’t Drink and Boat
Never use drugs or alcohol before or during boat operation. Exposure to sun, glare, wind and even vibrations can all increase the effects of alcohol.
Keep and Maintain Safety Equipment Onboard
- Life Jackets – Have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person onboard and one approved throwable device for any boat 16 feet and longer. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recommends that everyone wear a lifejacket while on the water.
- Fire Extinguisher – Except for a few exceptions¹, all watercraft in Ohio must be equipped with a fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers must meet or exceed United States Coast Guard standards, be capable of extinguishing a gasoline fire, be readily accessible and be in condition to be ready for immediate and effective use.
- Lights – Always test boat lights before the boat leaves the dock and carry flashlights with extra batteries.
- Emergency supplies – Keep a cell phone, maps, flares and a first aid kit on board in a floating pouch.
Watch the Weather
Always keep a close eye on the weather and bring a radio. Signs that a storm is brewing include wind changes, lightning flashes and choppy water. When in doubt, head for shore.
Take Special Cold Water Precautions
It may be hot outside, but at the time of this writing, Lake Erie temperatures near Cleveland were only around 50° F. The water temperatures are much cooler this year due to an unusually late ice cover. So how cold is too cold? According to the U.S. Coast Guard, water temperatures less than 70° F can lower your body temperature, causing hypothermia.
- Beware of fumes – If not ventilated properly, gasoline vapors can be deadly. Open all hatches and run the blower after you refuel and before getting underway. Sniff for fumes before starting the engine.
- Don’t overload your boat – If your boat is filled with too much gear or too many passengers, it will become unstable and increase the risk of capsizing or swamping.
Follow Navigation Rules
- The nautical rules of the road dictate the operator’s course of action for avoiding collisions. These rules are the traffic laws of the waterways and legally binding for boat operators.
- Never allow passengers to ride on gunwales or seatbacks or outside of protective railings, including the front of a pontoon boat. A large wave, sudden turn, stop or start could cause a fall overboard.
- After leaving the boat launch, maintain slow-no-wake speed for a safe and legal distance from the launch.
If you were born after 1981 and you operate a boat greater than 10 horsepower, Ohio law requires you to have boater education.
For more information, or to find a boating class near you, visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft online at http://watercraft.ohiodnr.gov/.
¹Except for vessels with an electric motor and vessels less than 26 feet of “open construction” with an outboard motor. (See Ohio Revised Code 1547.27.)