As Seattle-area boaters dust off their boat shoes, iron their khaki shorts and stock up on wine spritzers in anticipation of Saturday’s Opening Day of boating season, they should also be thinking about how to stay safe on the water.
Much of the festivities for the Seattle Yacht Club’s Opening Day take place near the club on the Montlake Cut between Lake Washington and Portage Bay. Turnout for the tradition, which began in 1920, could be decent with a forecast calling for mostly sunny skies and high temperatures in the upper 60s, according to the National Weather Service.
While the focus of Opening Day is fun and merriment, there are some simple things to do to ensure the good times float on:
- Wear a properly fitted life jacket and have one for every person onboard. Washington’s bodies of water are especially dangerous this time of year. Many of the state’s lakes never warm past 60 degrees, making it easy for a swimmer or someone who falls from a vessel to become hypothermic or drown. Rivers and streams coming out of the mountains aren’t any safer. Water temperatures in the upper reaches of these rivers are in the 30s, and they aren’t much warmer when they reach the lowland, with water temperatures in the 40s.
- Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. Opening Day isn’t always a sunny affair, but that doesn’t mean sunscreen shouldn’t be applied. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher. Put it on before going outside because it takes 15 minutes for your skin to absorb. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming.
- Always check weather and marine conditions. It is important to check a marine report as the weather can be different on the water. The National Weather Service provides both general and marine forecasts.
- Tell someone where and when you are going. Provide contact information and file a float plan. The U.S. Coast Guard provides a free downloadable float plan.
- For those launching their boats this weekend, Pemco Insurance has some pointers worth noting. Make sure your boat is in working order before launching. Test the engine and check your winch rope and trailer safety chains, as ropes rot and chains can become weak and rusty.
- Be mindful of how you put your vessel in the water. Before backing down the ramp make sure the tie-down straps, winch line and safety chain on the bow are disconnected. Roll down the vehicle windows so you can escape if your vehicle joins your boat in the water. Have children and pets wait outside the car before slowly backing down the ramp, where you set the parking brake once in launch position.
- If people are swimming near your boat, make sure an orange flag is raised.