Top 10 Boating Safety Tips

young man on a boat as part of a graphic for the ace recreational marine insurance offering

As the weather warms up, many of us head to lakes, rivers, or the ocean to fish, waterski, cruise, and relax onboard a boat, yacht or other personal watercraft. With nearly 12 million registered recreational boats in the U.S.*, it’s no wonder the waterways are a popular place to go. But, before you head out with friends and family, take note of a few important safety tips.

  1. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket.
    Victims drowned in approximately 80% of fatal boating accidents. Of those, 83% were not wearing a life jacket. Insist that your crew and guests all wear a life jacket that fits them well. This can help them stay afloat in rough waters, protect them against hypothermia, and in some cases, can keep their head above water.
  2. Use the right kind of life jackets for the situation.
    Boats 16 feet and longer must be equipped with one Type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device (PFD) plus one Type IV throwable device. Boats that are 16 feet or less must have one Type I, II, III or V PFD for each person aboard. All boats must be equipped with one Type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device for each person aboard.  Boats 16 feet and longer must also be equipped with a Type IV throwable device. All PFDs should be in good condition and have a Coast Guard Approval Number.

    1. Type I PFDs are often called off-shore life jackets. They provide the most buoyancy and are effective in all waters, especially open, rough, or remote waters where rescue may be delayed. They are designed to turn most unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water.
    2. Type II PFDs are near-shore buoyancy vests. They are intended for calm, inland water or waters where there is a good chance of quick rescue.
    3. Type III PFDs are also called floatation aids. They are good for calm, inland water, similar to Type II.
    4. Type IV PFDs are designed to be thrown to a person in the water and grasped and held by the user until rescued.
    5. Type V PFDs are special use devices. They may be carried instead of other PFDs if used in accordance with the approved conditions designated on the label. They may be inflatable vests, deck suits, work vests, board sailing vests or hybrid PFDs.
  3. Never drink alcohol and go boating.
    Alcohol use is a leading contributor to fatal boating accidents, causing approximately 15% of the deaths each year. Stay sharp when you’re on the water by leaving the alcohol on dry land.
  4. Take a boating safety course.
    Only 13% of the boating deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate. You may even qualify for a reduced insurance rate if you complete a safety course. Contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron chapter or visit uscgboating.org for details.
  5. Put down the cell phone.
    One of the top five contributing factors to boating accidents is inattention. Just like distracted driving on our highways, talking, texting, and other use of cell phones while boating is a growing problem on the water. Don’t contribute to this problem. Keep your eyes on the water ahead and around you.

Read the full article and see the rest of the list.

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Voyages to Cuba Bring Uncertainty

Map of Cuba

Florida boaters should be cautious before making plans to navigate to Cuba.

On September 18, 2015, The U.S. Department of the Treasury released new rules surrounding U.S. travel to Cuba. The administration lifted the prohibition on boating to Cuba and Cuban waters. While the intrigue is enormous, Florida boaters should be cautious before making plans for such a Caribbean voyage. Although the U.S. government has liberalized the rules, there are many unique conditions that should be considered; political risk, crime, navigational limits available on current insurance policies, just to name a few.

The new regulations bring the marine insurance industry into uncharted territory. Insurance companies are not yet offering coverage extensions for destination Cuba. The reasons that the carriers may be slow to respond are as follows:

  • Conflicting laws and regulations between U.S. agencies
  • Lack of familiarity with Cuban laws which may govern in civil and criminal matters
  • Lack of knowledge and limited opportunities for subrogation
  • Additional expense of sending marine surveyors and claims adjustors
  • Unknown/adequate repair facilities
  • Access to repair parts
  • Towing charges if the vessel had to be repatriated for repair
  • Technical complications associated with endorsing in force policies
  • No underwriting data to base rates on

It is uncertain when insurance companies will offer this coverage to the recreational boater. In the meantime, boaters are reminded that property and liability coverage only applies to claims which occur within the navigational limits stated in the boater’s policy. Wallace Welch & Willingham will stay attuned to this situation and will continue to post updates.

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