December is upon us and winter cold is in full effect throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Many boaters are off the water during the cold months, but safe boating in the spring and summer starts with proper winterization and preparation.
Every year when the boating season opens up, the Coast Guard conducts numerous rescues due to preventable incidents which could have been avoided if the proper steps were taken for winterization and proper inspections were done prior to departing for the first time of the season.
Waiting too long may be a costly mistake. Expanding water can crack an engine block, damage fiberglass, split hoses or destroy refrigeration systems. Since most mariners go out less in the winter, or remove their boat from the water, it is a great time to perform annual maintenance. In addition to saving money, these preventative measures could save your life.
Through November of 2018, Coast Guard crews in the 5th District responded to 14 search and rescue cases due to dead batteries. There were 119 reported engine failures of different sorts and more than 200 cases were due to operator error.
Doing some preventative maintenance and taking a boating safety course could have prevented many of these potentially life threatening situations. The ocean can be very unforgiving and a disabled boat in the wrong conditions without the right safety gear can be fatal. Ensuring your boat is properly maintained will reduce the chance that you and your loved ones will need to be rescued.
There are a number of things that can be done to ensure your boat is ready to go next season by preventing problems from developing over the winter. Flushing water out, adding fuel stabilizer and topping battery electrolyte levels are just a few things that could make a difference. Check with your local boat dealer, maintenance center, marina, boating supply store, and boat insurer to find recommendations and tips to help you determine how to prepare and store your boat for the off-season.
An excellent addition to being a better mariner is taking a boating safety course, particularly if you have never taken one before or changed residence to another state. Taking an in-person course introduces you to local boating experts, raises your awareness of local practices and hazards, and refreshes your understanding of the rules of the road and good seamanship. Safe boating goes hand-in-hand with responsible boat ownership.
Registering your emergency position-indicating radiobeacon station (EPIRB) will help us identify who is in distress and can save precious time in locating those in distress.
Check out these resources to take action now:
Mid-Atlantic title and registration agencies (for USCG documented vessels): NJ, PA, DE, MD, DC, VA, NC, NVDC (National Vessel Documentation Center)
Boating safety courses in the mid-Atlantic: NJ (does not offer a list of course providers online), PA, DE, MD, DC, VA, NC, USCG Auxiliary class finder by zip code.
Winterize your boat:
- Boat U.S. Foundation “Boater’s Guide to Winterizing”
- West Marine: Winterizing
- Discover Boating Winterizing
Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class Andy Kendrick is assigned to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 5th District. The command is responsible for Coast Guard activities from South Carolina to New Jersey.