The following boating safety requirements and recommendations come from Federal, State and Coast Guard guidelines.

COAST GUARD REQUIREMENTS

PFD There must be a Personal Flotation Device for each person on board. If the boat is 16-26 feet, a throwable PFD must be on board.

Bell, Whistle Every vessel less than 65.6 feet must carry an efficient sound producing device.

Visual Distress Signals Every vessel is required to carry approved visual distress signals, e.g. flares, for night-time use.

Fire Extinguisher One B-1 type approved hand portable fire extinguisher is required for all inboard motorboats.  It is recommended, but not required, for outboard motorboats under 26 feet.

Flashlight Vessel operators should never leave shore without a flashlight. 

MASSACHUSETTS LAW

Reckless or negligent operation of a vessel is the failure to exercise the degree of care necessary to prevent the endangering of life, limb, or property of any person.  Examples of reckless or negligent operation are:

  • Operating at high speed or erratically in congested waterway traffic.
  • Operating such that your vessel or another vessel must swerve abruptly or cut speed in order to avoid collision.
  • Operating near or through areas being used by swimmers or divers.
  • Operating such that your vessel collides with another vessel, object, or person.
  • Operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Alcohol’s effects are greatly exaggerated by exposure to sun, glare, wind, noise and vibration.
  • Operating between sunset and sunrise without displaying navigation lights.
  • Chasing or harassing wildlife with your vessel.

Improper speed or distance is not maintaining a proper speed and/or distance while operating a vessel.  Specifically, it is illegal to operate any vessel:

  • At a distance from other vessels or at a speed that exceeds safe and reasonable limits given the waterway traffic; visibility; wind and water conditions; and the proximity of navigational hazards, like rocks.
  • At greater than 45 miles per hour on any inland waterways in Massachusetts, and at any speed within the following swimming areas:
    • 150 feet of shorelines used as swimming areas
    • 75 feet of floats or markers that designate swimming areas.
    • At a rate of speed that creates a wake that causes damage, injury, or excessive rocking to other vessels, rafts, or floats.

Allowing passengers to ride on the bow or gunwales, or any other place where there may be a chance of falling overboard, is illegal.

Overloading or overpowering the vessel beyond the safe load and power limits, taking into consideration weather and other operating conditions is illegal.

Operating the vessel in a condition that causes danger to the occupants or others on the waterways is illegal.

Navigation Lights must be displayed between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility.  This applies to unpowered vessels like sailboats or vessels that are paddled, poled, or rowed.

  • Red and green sidelights visible from a distance of at least one mile away.
  • An all-around white light that must be at least 3.3 feet higher than the sidelights.

BOATING BASICS

Before beginning to fuel:

  • Dock the boat securely and ask all passengers to exit.
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke or strike a match.
  • Check all fuel lines, connections, and fuel vents.
  • Turn off anything that might cause a spark
  • Remove portable fuel tanks and fill them on the dock.

While filling the fuel tank:

  • Keep the nozzle of the fuel pump hose in contact with the tank opening to prevent producing a static spark.
  • Avoid spilling fuel in to the boat’s bilge or the water.
  • Never fill a tank to the brim- leave room to expand.
  • Wipe up any spilled fuel.
  • Open all windows, ports, doors, and other openings.
  • After fueling, open the door of the engine compartment and sniff to check for any evidence of gas fumes.  Do this before starting the engine.  If you do smell gas fumes, determine the source and make repairs immediately.

Paddle sports  Paddlers (those who boat in small crafts such as canoes, kayaks, and rafts) should follow the same safe practices as any other small vessel operator:

  • Know how to paddle or swim in strong winds.
  • Wear a life jacket (PFD) at all times.
  • Be prepared for cold water.  Don’t underestimate cold water’s ability to rob you of your strength.
  • Never paddle alone.
  • Never overload the craft and distribute weight evenly.
  • When paddling on a lake, watch the weather and stay close to shore.  Head to shore if the waves increase.
  • Canoe and kayak fatalities have grown significantly over the past 10 years in Massachusetts, since both canoes and kayaks capsize quite easily.

Water-skiing:

  • Every vessel towing a person(s) on water skis or similar devices must have on board, in addition to the operator, an observer at least 12 years of age constantly observing the person being towed.
  • Each person being towed behind a vessel on water skis or similar devices must wear a PFD.
  • It is illegal for vessels to tow a person(s) on water skis or similar devices from sunset to sunrise.
  • All vessels towing a person on water skis or similar devices must be equipped with a ladder, steps, a platform or similar device that can be used to retrieve the person(s) being towed from the water.
  • Everyone engaged in water-skiing- the operator, and the towed person(s)- must conduct themselves in a safe and responsible manner.
    • Water skiers must ski at a safe distance to prevent their wash from being thrown into or causing excessive rocking of other vessels, rafts, or floats.
    • The towing vessel must not be operated within 150 feet of shoreline being used as swimming areas or within 75 feet of floats or markers that designate swimming areas.
    • It is illegal for the vessel operator or the towed person to be under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance.

Thunderstorms:

Get off the water and dock when a thunderstorm approaches.  Check the weather forecast prior to boating and don’t go out if thunderstorms are predicted.

PRE-DEPARTURE CHECKLIST

□   Check weather forecast

Equipment:

□   At least 1 PFD per passenger

□   Additional throwable device if vessel  is more than 16 feet

□   Horn or whistle that produces a four second blast audible for at least a half mile

□   Flashlight

□   Accessible flares

□   Basic toolbox and bucket for bailing

□   Spare light bulbs and fuses

□   Spare batteries for accessories (e.g. flashlight)

□   Oars or paddles

□   At least one anchor set up on anchor line

□   Fire extinguisher

□   Vessel registration

□   Two or three extra dock lines

□   At least two fenders for docking

□   Keys to the boat

Vessel Check

□   All navigation lights in working order and instrument lights working

□   Make sure interior spaces are well-ventilated before departure

□   If fuel smells are detectable before ventilating, check after running the blowers for several minutes before starting

□   Have enough fuel to provide a reasonable margin for safety for your return

□   Check engine oil

Trailer Check

□   Battery charged

□   Keys to the boat

□   Plug in the boat

□   Check tire pressure and grease wheel bearings

□   Make sure hitch is secure and safety chains are attached

□   Make sure boat is tied down properly

— submitted by Jim Dooner, Board Member

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