BOATING SAFETY: Don’t Move To Davy Jones’ Locker
Part 1. Don’t Let the Man Get Ya’
Spring is trying to arrive. Ice is melting or gone from the lakes and rivers. Soon, the tinny sound of outboard motors and the muffled grumbling of inboard motors will fill the air. Kayak and canoe paddles will appear. Kids will be jumping off docks into the lake. Are you ready for a summer on the water?
This two part review of water safety is a reminder of the laws and ordinances of man and nature. Knowing and following both can save you money and even save lives. On a sad note, in the past two weeks two Washington State fatalities occurred on the water. We need to be prepared.
In past years, the police visited public boat docks on opening day to check boats for license and safety compliance, so plan on them showing up this year as well. Make sure you get your boat and yourself squared away before you hit the water, or you might not hit the water as quickly as planned.
To help start the season off right, following are a few of the legal requirements which all boaters need to know to operate boats safely and legally on Washington State waters.
Who has to have a license? The two main requirements are anyone 12 years old and older operating a boat having a 15 or greater horsepower motor. You can get a 60 day temporary license on line. Permanent licenses are indefinite. Visit www.parks.wa.gov/boating/boatered/ or call 360-902-8555 for more information.
All operators of motorboats 15 hp or greater must take a boater safety class and must have their education card on board. Classes can be taken on line if desired. This is a onetime deal, not an annual requirement. This class may be worth a 10 to 15 % discount on your boat insurance so ask your insurance agent about it!
Every year thousands die in overloaded ferries that capsize. These major tragedies make the news worldwide. How many people are injured and killed each year because they say, “Come on, there is always room for one more!” Obey the capacity plate instructions on the boat. No plate? Boat length times width divided by 15 = capacity of the boat. So, 16 footer by 5 feet wide = 80 divided by 15 = 5.3333 people. Round down!
Lights are required from sunset to sunrise. You cannot use blue flashing lights. Be alert to other boats on the water. In my early teens, I took a trip from the Island of Mindanao in the Southern Philippines. We departed after dark in an outrigger canoe with an inboard motor for an island hours away in the general direction of Indonesia. About midnight, we were jarred awake and found our prow stuck in the side of a similar boat. There were a lot of very unhappy folks some ten miles out on the Sulu Sea that night. What caused the accident? Neither boat was using their running lights. We each fixed our broken outriggers and went on our way. The other boat had a 40 pound red snapper which I still see clearly in my mind 50 years later. Make sure your boat has the correct lights installed and working.
Each individual in the boat must have an approved flotation device. I recommend you wear them. Children under 13 MUST wear their flotation devices.
Federal Law requires most watercraft to be licensed according to the laws of the primary state of use. Exceptions in Washington include kayaks, canoes and small rowboats. As with all vehicles, you need to have the registration with you when you are in the boat. See http://www.boat.wa.gov/register.asp for more information.
Related to licensing is the requirement for title. These are matching requirements. If it has to be titled, it has to be licensed and vice versa.
There are also regulations requiring new or used motor-driven vessels, other than a Jet Ski-type personal watercraft, to display a sticker that warns passengers of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Check with the department of licensing for more detailed information.
Motorboats must also have fire extinguishers appropriate to the vessel.
Make sure your trailer is licensed and the lights work. Also, make sure you can properly secure the boat to the trailer.
Know the different aquatic nuisances. Washington State law prohibits transport of any aquatic nuisance species, such as non-native plants and creatures, on any boat, trailer, fishing gear or bait well. Check out http://boat.wa.gov/nuisance-species.asp for further information
Watch for markers. Most waterways are marked with signs. Learn what they mean and obey them. You do not want to tour a power generating turbine from the inside. Get too close to the dam and you might.
If you see a blue flashing light or hear a siren or loudspeaker behind you, stop and wait. They do not want to congratulate you on your catch. Either you did something wrong, or you are about to be inspected. This is the same experience we have when driving down the highway and “The Man” pulls us over.
Bad news for the motor heads out there. You cannot soup that engine up beyond the boat’s ability to operate safely. No Sir! That 350 twin cam, bored out eight-cylinder supercharged with turbo engine in your 12-foot kayak is just not going to happen. Lawmakers don’t have any sense of fun!
Related to the last note, there are noise restrictions on boat motors. Seems like they are out to get you “push the limits” mechanics. Sigh.
There are vague rules about “recklessness.” This type of rule is open to interpretation so use appropriate caution. Alcohol use while boating should be minimal or zero because stupidity and booze often show up at the same time. By definition, driving and boating while impaired by alcohol or drugs is reckless.
These are highlights gleaned from many chapters on the legal requirements to operate boats on Washington State waters. Know the rules! Ignorance is not an excuse. In a time of serious budget deficiencies, anticipate tighter control. Have your ducks in order and you might save yourself some money. Most of these regulations have a lot of common sense to them. Obey them and you just might save your life.
For more information on Washington State boating requirements and safety, please visit the following websites: http://www.boater101.com/Course/documents/WA/WAstatelaws.pdf