Sponsored by the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC), National Safe Boating Week is a global effort dedicated to promoting safe boating practices. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 4,168 boating accidents that resulted in 2,559 injuries, 613 fatalities and $55 million in property damage.

The folks at Garmin want to encourage boaters to take a few simple steps now to ensure they’ll get home safely from adventures on the water later. Whether you’re new to recreational boating or you’ve been sailing the seas for decades, now is the perfect time to refresh yourself on what you need to be doing prior to and during your time on the water. Your life — and the lives of those around you — might just depend on it.

  1. Buckle up. (Your life jacket, that is.) Of the recreational boating accidents reported by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2019, 86 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. Here’s the thing: Every person on your boat needs to wear a life jacket at all times. No exceptions. If your passengers are children, make sure you know how to make their duds fit properly. Now is the perfect time to take the NSBC’s “Wear It” pledge and to ensure you have the appropriate number of life jackets on board.
  2. Prepare your vessel. It goes beyond just making sure you’ve got enough life jackets for everyone. Garmin has a suite of easy-to-use, onboard electronics designed to increase peace of mind for any type of boater. You’ll want to look into on-water access to industry-leading mapping to enhance situational awareness, radios and transceiversGPS satellite communicators and more. Stay connected and ready for anything, no matter how far out you go.
  3. Know your safety plan. It could come in the form of weather, other boaters practicing unsafe behavior or any other kind of emergency, but it’s important that you have safety plans in place in the event of danger. Know how to safely get off (or back on) your boat, ensure that all passengers are aware of the location of safety equipment and don’t forget to leave someone on land with a rough itinerary of your trip.
  4. Boat sober. It should go without saying, but unfortunately, it still needs to be said: Boating and booze don’t go together. Alcohol is the leading contributing factor to recreational boating fatalities, according to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. Operating any water vessel while under the influence — whether it’s a motorboat, a kayak or something in between — is illegal, and maritime law enforcement takes it every bit as seriously as driving a car when under the influence.
  5. Take a boating safety course. The NSBC offers plenty of training, both on-water and online, including free videos and quizzes related to the basic navigational rules of boating. Most boaters involved in accidents, the council says, have never had a boating safety course. If you have an internet connection (which we’re guessing you do, if you managed to access this article), make sure you’re educated before heading out onto the water this season.  

There’s nothing more important than your safety when on the water — and by taking just the five actions above, you’ll be well on your way to a boating season that remains fun for everyone. For more resources and education, visit the NSBC’s National Safe Boating Week website:  safeboatingcampaign.com.