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SPRINGFIELD, Va., Sept. 20, 2023 — For some boaters, fall is the best time for boating. Summer’s steamy days have surrendered to more comfortable temperatures, angling improves, and winds are stronger for sailing. It’s also time to embrace extra boating safety efforts for the season and look ahead to how you’re going to store your boat this winter. The nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has three boating safety tips to consider, as well as some test results on the four main types of winter boat covers.

  1. Take safety seriously. If you ask the U.S. Coast Guard about boating safety and drowning, they’ll tell you that three of every four boaters who drowned in 2022 were using vessels less than 21 feet in length at the time (when boat length was known in the accident statistics). The BoatUS Foundation says that small boats in particular are more susceptible to the effects of stormy weather. During leaf-peeping season there’s also more solo boat operation, which means it’s wise to wear a life jacket and file a float plan so someone can raise the alarm if you fail to return. A self-boarding ladder, such as a length of multi-looped rope anchored to a cleat, should be easily grabbable from the water.
  2. Keep up with maintenance. Like many boaters, enjoying summer boating season was primary. Secondary was toiling over the things that broke, leaked or came apart. Ensuring your vessel remains reliable is important as there are fewer potential good Samaritan boaters – generally your closest rescuers – to provide help, if necessary.
  3. Use your engine cutoff switch. While all states require an engine cutoff switch (ECOS) use for PWCs, seven states and the U.S. Coast Guard also require ECOS devices for boats. The Coast Guard’s rule requires ECOS wear when aboard vessels less than 26 feet traveling on plane or above displacement speed. The ECOS can be located at the helm of the boat or on the tiller or body of an outboard engine and typically connects to the boat’s operator with a lanyard. Some ECOS devices eliminate the lanyard and rely on wireless proximity devices to shut down an engine if the operator goes overboard. Regardless, an accidental fall overboard could quickly turn dangerous. Make your ECOS your boating friend this fall.

BONUS:

Look for a winter boat cover. Have you ever considered using a reusable winter cover instead of shrinkwrap? The BoatU.S. Foundation recently put a number of common boat storage covers to the test. Some findings include: “Waterproof” and “water-resistant” covers are not the same; boats on rack storage may have no other choice than shrinkwrap due to safety reasons; and ensuring all-winter-long survival of any type of boat cover includes making sure the cover is well-supported and adding padding to a boat’s hard edges and tops of all cover support poles. The full report, Foundation Findings #60: What You Need to Know About Boat Covers for Winter Storage, can help boaters fairly evaluate reusable, more environmentally friendly options.

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