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Boat Safety Overview
For land mammals, we humans sure love our time on the water.  People migrate to northern lakes in the summer, and southern beaches in the winter.  Any time of year, a vacation just isn't the same without spending some time on the water.

Boating provides fun and exhilarating sport, and it can be a relaxing hobby.  Whether you're speeding along with the surf slapping wildly at the helm, or floating lazily on an inflatable raft, the water provides a beautiful and fascinating place to set yourself free.   Water can be fun, and relaxing, but it also commands your utmost respect.  Water sports can be extremely dangerous, and practicing boat safety is paramount.

Wear a Floatation Device
All smart boaters prepare themselves for the unexpected.  Weather can quickly turn ugly, causing high waves and blinding precipitation.  Collisions and capsizes have brought countless boating trips to abrupt ends, even for the most experience boaters.  Don't think that you're invincible. Everyone on the boat, even strong swimmers, must wear a floatation device.  Small and young children are particularly at risk or injury or drowning.  It's not just a smart thing to do; in many places, everyone in a boat is required by law to wear a personal floatation device.

Set a Course for Safety
Experience boaters and nautical novices alike should taking boating safety courses.  Most areas offer free courses, and the lessons can usually be completed in a day or two.  Enroll yourself, and your entire family.  Kids are never too young to learn about boat safety.  If you have trouble finding safety courses in your city, see what you can find online.  The Internet is a great resource for all types of courses and training programs.

Just Say No
Operating watercraft takes keen sense and, sometimes, rapid reflexes.  Using drugs or alcohol will impair your judgment and slow your reflexes.  Even prescription drugs can take a dangerous toll on your boat safety.  In most areas, the impairment laws imposed upon automobile drivers affect watercraft drivers in the same capacity.  Your craft and someone's life can be at stake if you use alcohol or drugs on the water.  

Be a Good Judge
Boat safety is based on sensibility.  Know your limits, and make sure you're able to make smart, split-second decisions.  Know what to do if another boat suddenly veers toward you, or if your buddy bails off of his water skis and slips from your line of sight.  When you're on the water, you may be called upon to make sound judgment calls.  Understand your options in any given situation, and know how to take the best ones.  

Have Respect
Respect is as important on the water as it is on the highway.  Be cautious of other boaters, and respect their right to share the waters.  Make sure that other boaters can see you, particularly at night.  Maintain the water speed limit and follow the existing rules of the waterway.  Have respect for your passengers, and yourself, as well.  Showing off on the water won't impress anyone.

Maintain Your Boat
Boat safety begins with the boat, so make sure that yours is in proper working condition.  Check your craft often, and make sure that it all components are in working order and meet boat safety requirements.  Keeping a maintenance record of your boat is just as important as keeping one for your car.   Take your boat and motor for regular maintenance, and learn how to perform emergency maintenance in the event of an accident or breakdown on the water.

Boating can mean anything from a fun kayaking trip, to an exhilarating afternoon of extreme water skiing, to a relaxing afternoon of fishing.  However you choose to spend your time on the water, just remember to make boat safety your first priority.
 
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