Summer is in the rear view mirror but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy boating this fall. Whether you’re simply taking leisurely trips around the lake, skiing or fishing, autumn is the perfect time to enjoy a longer season on the water.
Obviously, with fall comes cooler temperatures and shorter days, which means you need to take a few more precautions to ensure your safety while boating. Following are some great tips:
- As you do before you get out on the water for the first time every year, you need to inspect your flares and your boat’s navigation lights to make sure everything is up to snuff and in working order. Always make sure you also have a couple of waterproof flashlights onboard, along with extra batteries, to help guide your way if you happen to be docking after dark.
- Wearing a life jacket is more important than ever. We all know if you’re boating you should wear a life jacket but it’s even more crucial once summer is over and temperatures drop. Should you fall into the water, its coolness increases your chances of hypothermia and the later into the evening you’re out the colder it will be. The fact is, should you end up in water even as warm as 60 degrees, you can find yourself in serious trouble.
- It’s always a good idea to have life jackets that have lights attached to them (it’s easier to be found if you do fall in) and a good fit is important.
- Make sure your charts are current. Navigational aids like buoys and channel markers could be taken out of the water as soon as October in some places so you need to be aware of where you are. With daylight waning with each passing day in the fall, if you’re out after dark, you’ll need those charts to make your way through the water.
- Have a working VHF radio. While being out on the water in the fall likely means you’re going to have more peace and quiet, you might also find yourself having issues with the boat, people on board, etc. and there might not be anyone else around. The radio is important in that it can help get help to you, even when your cell phone has no signal.
- Fill ‘er Up. Sure, it might sound like this is a gimme and that everybody always makes sure they have a full take of fuel but you’d be surprised at how many boaters don’t. Less boaters mean some fuel stops may not be open so always have plenty of fuel before you head out so you’ll have no problems getting back.
- Have an “Emergency Kit.” Pack a small bag with a first aid kit, warm clothes, snacks, water and a tarp. You can also keep your cell phone and other valuables in the bag for safekeeping.
- Check the weather before you leave. Something else that seems common sense but you should always consider the fact that while the weather might be fine when you head out, an hour or two later it could be completely different. Before getting out on the water, check to see what the latest weather forecast is (there are plenty of great weather apps) so you don’t get caught in bad weather.
- Fog, mist and the sun going down can make it harder to see in the fall so wear bright colors like orange, yellow or lime green. Also helpful would be having a strobe light or bright safety lights on your boat.
A couple of other things: make sure your boat is in good operational shape before going out, always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back and always go out with a friend. Following these simple tips will assure your trips out on the water this fall will be enjoyable and safe!