Autumn’s arrival doesn't mean the boating and fishing season has to come to an end. Quite the contrary! Most anglers will tell you that some of the year’s best fishing occurs in the fall, and boaters agree that leaf-peeping while slowly cruising through calm, mirror-like waters takes on an almost ethereal quality.
However, the arrival of fall’s shorter days and colder temperatures does require boaters to take some extra precautions in order to ensure a safe and enjoyable outing for all. With this in mind, the Sea Tow Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to promote boating safety, offers the following six tips for boaters and anglers who go out on the water this fall.
1. Update your charts. Local aids to navigation like channel markers and buoys placed by local authorities may be pulled as early as October in some areas. With autumn’s shorter days, you also may wind up cruising home after dark, making even familiar landmarks hard to spot. Make sure your charts – electronic and paper – are up to date so you can use them to navigate instead of visual aids.
2. Check nav lights and flares. Make sure that your boat's navigation lights are in working order and your emergency flares are not past their expiration date. Carry a couple of waterproof flashlights onboard to help you unload passengers and gear at the dock or boat ramp after dark, and be sure to stock spare batteries.
3. Make sure your VHF is working. During the fall, the waterways are less crowded. While this is peaceful, it also means that if you run into a problem, you might not see another boater. You can use your VHF radio to call for help even in spots where your cell phone has no signal. Use Sea Tow’s free Automated Radio Check system to ensure the radio is working properly – to find the right VHF channel for your area, visit www.seatow.com/boating-safety/automated-radio-checks.
4. Gas up before you go. With fewer boats on the water, some fuel docks may close early during the fall season. Don’t assume you can fill up at your destination for the return trip home.
5. Wear a life jacket. In the autumn, as water temperatures start to fall, boaters who accidentally fall overboard run an increased risk of hypothermia. While children under 13 must wear a life jacket when the boat is underway by law, it's a good idea for adults to wear them, too – especially at night. Purchase life jackets with lights attached so rescuers can find you in the water. Make sure they fit over your bulky “fall layers” – jackets, sweatshirts, etc. If you don’t have a life jacket, you can borrow a life jacket for free from one of the 160+ Sea Tow Foundation life jacket loaner stations. Find one near you at www.boatingsafety.com.
6. Keep a “weather eye”. Autumn storms can approach swiftly, and often seem more menacing than summer rain showers. If you have a smartphone, download the Sea Tow App at www.seatow.com/app. Boaters can use this free app to get up-to-date weather forecasts, as well as tides and navigation information. It also lets you call for help with the swipe of a finger.
About the Sea Tow Foundation
In 2007, Sea Tow Founder and CEO Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer created the Sea Tow Foundation – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization – to promote safe boating practices. The Foundation’s goal is to reduce accidents, fatalities and property damage related to recreational boating. For more information, please visit boatingsafety.com.