July 6, 2016 by Joe Kukura

Set a course for boating safely this summer

Boating on Clear Lake in northern California is a summer pastime that’s beautiful, fun and rewarding. But paying attention to the critical basics of boating safety is essential to ensuring the good times will last.

Unfortunately, this summer has already seen four tragic fatalities on the waters of Clear Lake, which may have been prevented if personal floatation devices were used. Whether you’re an experienced boater or new to the water, boating safety should always be a paramount concern so you can enjoy your boating experience and have many happy returns.

Clear Lake is an unbelievable destination for boating enthusiasts to enjoy summertime sailing and fishing, but even the simplest boating trip comes with some degree of risk. Clear Lake is the oldest lake in North America, but has power and majesty that are best enjoyed when boating cautiously and following some basic safety guidelines.

Wear life jackets and learn to swim

If you don’t already know how, learning to swim should be considered a safety prerequisite for anyone who boards a boat. The Red Cross offers swim classes in locations all across the country. Additionally, wearing life jackets or personal flotation devices on boats should be considered every bit as mandatory as fastening your seat belt. In fact, children under 13 are required by California law to wear life jackets on boats. Keep in mind that more than half of boating fatalities involve a victim who was not wearing a life jacket.

Take a boating safety class

It’s easy to find a boating safety course or class, and some are even available for free online. Boat operators owe it to their passengers—and other boaters on the water—to understand all the fundamentals of boating safety. Low-cost boating safety classes are also available at many aquatic centers and through U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Auxiliaries. 

Flotilla 8-8 is a USCG Auxiliary at Braito’s Buckingham Marina on Clear Lake. It provides public boating courses on important topics like boating safety, inland boating, lines and knots, powering your boat, weather and boating, and your boat’s radio.

Get your vessel checked

The US Coast Guard also offers free vessel safety checks, conducted in person and at your convenience. There are no penalties or consequences if your vessel does not pass, so there are no excuses for not having a certified vessel examiner inspect your boat and let you know what you can do to keep your friends and family as safe as possible on the water.

Leave the alcohol on land

It should go without saying that alcohol will gravely impair your ability to make responsible decisions on the water. Boozing on the boat will double your risk of an accident; an unacceptable endangerment of you and your passengers. Save the alcohol for afterward, even if you’re just along for the ride.

Pay attention to the weather

Clear Lake is indeed clear, but the weather won’t always be. Check weather conditions before heading out boating. If dark clouds are forming and winds are strong, or if temperatures are dropping suddenly, it’s probably best to take a raincheck instead of sailing in bad weather.

Keep a checklist and a float plan

The California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways has a boating safety checklist and float plan that provide excellent safety guidelines. The checklist reminds you of every precaution responsible boaters should address before setting sail. The float plan is an invaluable sheet of information describing your boat, who’s on board and your planned travel itinerary, to be left with a friend or at a marina to help the Coast Guard locate you as quickly as possible should anything go wrong.

Boat operators have a great responsibility to their passengers to know and understand the rules of safe boating. When boating on Clear Lake, we want you to enjoy the oldest lake in North America for many, many years to come. You’ll savor your experience more knowing that you’ve got the knowledge to get your passengers home safe. Boat on Clear Lake with clarity, wisdom and safe preparation to make sure the only thing that overwhelms you is the beauty and majesty of Clear Lake.