Water Safety Council

Preparation can go a long way toward an enjoyable and safe boating season. Boat owners should consider an annual routine to make sure their boats are ready to head out onto the lake.

After uncovering the vessel, check for damage from critters. If damage exists, arrange to get it fixed. Then proceed with a good stem-to-stern cleaning.

Check the fluids. See if the engine oil is clean, at proper level and looks like no water has entered. Also, check any hydraulic and cooling fluids. Gear case/lower unit lubricants should be changed each season. Turn the steering wheel and lubricate cable connections. Check rubber hoses for suppleness and replace if they are stiff and brittle, before they fail.

If the boat has an outdrive, check the rubber boot for holes or cracks. A worn boot can fail and cause a boat to sink.

If the boat’s battery has been used for at least five seasons, replace it. Give the battery an overnight charge before attempting to crank the engine. Also make sure navigation lights and other electrical accessories operate.

Inspect all boating safety equipment. Fire extinguishers must be showing green on the gauge or the push pin must pop back when depressed.

Boat owners should know that many Kidde brand fire extinguishers have been recalled.

Let life jackets air out while checking to ensure all snaps and buckles work properly and that each jacket is marked as Coast Guard approved. Any life jackets that don’t meet these tests must be removed.

Boaters should make sure that that they have their boater registration card and their Virginia Boating Safety Education certificate on board. These documents are the first items that law enforcement will ask for when they stop a boat. If others will be operating your boat, they should have their safe boating training cards aboard as well.

While boaters are no longer required to carry their Virginia Boating Safety Education Certificate, it is still recommended. Law enforcement must check to assure that boaters have taken the safe boating course and having the certificate can be quicker than officers checking with dispatch.

Boaters also should have a lake map, a flashlight, a cellphone charger and even binoculars.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the SML Sail and Power Squadron are offering free boating safety checks May 18 and 19 at Bridgewater Pointe Condominiums at Hales Ford Bridge and at Crazy Horse Marina in Scruggs.

This annual check may take time and money; however, if done completely it will make for a safe and carefree boating season.