There is nothing like spending fourth of July on your boat with family and friends. From joining mega boat raft-ups to watching fireworks exploding over the water, boating is one of the best ways to celebrate the 4th.
But the 4th of July holiday is also one of the busiest times of the year on the water. Even occasional boaters go out on their boat… and almost everyone has extra guests on board.
All these boats and people on the water mean lots of extra activity – more boats to look out for, and more people that may not know how to behave on a boat.
BoatUS shares some practical precautions for 4th of July boaters to make sure they are safe when celebrating the holiday.
Don’t overload your boat: Every boat owner becomes popular on July 4th because they’ve “got a boat”. Whoa, that doesn’t mean everyone can safely come aboard. Overloading combined with intense wake action always spells trouble on recreational boating’s most highly-trafficked holiday.
Keep to your boat’s capacity limit, ensure everyone has a seat inside the boat, and have a life jacket for everyone aboard. Wearing life jackets, especially after the fireworks end when the risk of a nighttime collision is the greatest, is a wise move.
Get all of the lights working: In the dark, the only way to determine a boat’s direction is by seeing its navigation lights. Fix any broken lights before you go – and ensure they are visible from 360 degrees. You may be surprised to learn that just because the light switch is turned on, it doesn’t mean your nav lights can be seen from every quarter.
Paddlers, resist the urge: Stand up paddleboards, kayaks and canoes are great – but not in the middle of a nighttime fireworks display. Wearing a headlamp or hanging glowsticks around your neck isn’t enough to be seen and may confuse other boaters. If you do insist on going out, stay very close to shore and away from any boating traffic, have USCG-approved nav lights, and keep clear of any channels, marinas or launch ramp areas. Assume that no one can see you.
Patience is a virtue: Wait a little bit after the fireworks show ends for boating traffic to thin out before you haul anchor. It’s also better to pass other boats astern to avoid anchor line entanglements – one of the top reasons why boaters will call for on water assistance from the TowBoatUS or Vessel Assist fleets. BoatUS reports their 24-hour dispatch call center switchboards (800-391-4869) light up like a Christmas tree after the fireworks shows end.
Check your dock: Before you invite everyone down to the lake house, ensure that any dock with electric service or a boat tied up to it isn’t leaking any stray current into the water. Minute amounts of alternating current in fresh water can be hazardous to swimmers and lead to Electric Shock Drowning. An easy way to check your dock is with a circuit tester and a clamp meter. If in doubt, just shut off all electricity to the dock, relax, and enjoy the fireworks.
Boat Sober: While it’s embarrassing to be arrested for boating while intoxicated, it also means the boat driver has forgotten his or her responsibility to keep everyone aboard safe. Wait until after you’ve tied up for the night before drinking, or one of the hundreds of law enforcement officers assigned to increased patrols may have to remind you in a very unpleasant, humiliating and costly way. Drunk driving on the water can cost you your car driver’s license, too.
Based on my personal experiences boating on 4th of July weekend, here are my additional recommendations:
Protect ears from fireworks. When you watch fireworks from your boat you can often get very close to the action. The loud sounds and booms seem to bounce off the water too. My biggest concern is protecting kids ears from fireworks on a boat by having proper ear protection. But also think about your pets and how a dog on board may react to loud fireworks. If they are not protected, keeping them inside a boat cabin may be a good idea.
Pick a good spot to view fireworks. Pay attention to the direction of breezes and where fireworks are being set off near the water. One year we stayed at the dock and had brunt ashes all over our bow after the show (luckily no canvas damage). Another year we are anchored WAY too close to the action – not only was it so loud that it was deafening, but major booms literally rocked our boat.
Watch your BBQ activity. Most people anchor out and raft-up with multiple boats and spend the day and evening barbecuing on their boat. Be extra cautious of a hot BBQ sitting on your swim platform as people swim up to it, or placement of hot BBQs mounted on your boat alongside other boats.
Watch your generator. If its really hot (as most 4th of July weekends tend to be) be careful about running your generator next to other boats during a raft-up as they will emit carbon monoxide. If you use the gen a lot, try to position your boat on the end of a raft-up with the exhaust facing away from other boats. Also, if you plan to spend the night, its generally not safe to run your gen overnight on a boat.
Sun safety on your boat. As always, remember to be sun safe when you are spending so much time out on the water. In particular, make sure you have proper sun gear for kids and reapply sunscreen often. And seek shade under your bimini or canvas as often as you can to avoid overexposure to sun and heat.
Enjoy your 4th of July boating!
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