Winter boating safety tips

Submitted by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.

Winter weather is here, bringing high winds, heavy rain and the chances of sleet and snowfall. The sheriff’s office would like to extend its efforts in keeping the community and personal property safe by sharing these tips regarding boating operations and storage.

When planning on conducting recreational boating activities this winter for activities such as fishing or pleasure cruises, please remember to check weather conditions several times prior to launching and while at sea. It is recommended to build a float plan with a family member prior to the voyage, which includes departure time, where the vessel is going, what route is being taken and what time the vessel is expected to return. Ensure all safety equipment including life jackets, distress signals, working communication devices and extra warm clothing are aboard the vessel. The dangers of hypothermic situations out on the water are much higher in the winter months due to the cold air temperatures, and the few degrees drop in water temperatures. Be cognizant not only of the vessel’s ability but of piloting ability as well. If there is any question as to whether it is safe or not to voyage on any particular day, the sheriff’s office recommendation is to not launch.

When securing a vessel, please ensure the equipment used to secure the vessel is in good working condition. Every year several boats drag anchor or break loose from their mooring, only to wash up on the beach, drift into other vessels and/or sink. If a vessel is not moored, anchored or tied to a dock slip, please remember to maintain your vessel. It is encouraged that boat owners ensure all bilge pumps on board are actively working, lines are in good condition and the object a vessel is secured to is in good working condition. It is further encouraged that boat owners conduct frequent checks on all these items before and after a windstorm. High winds combined with poor maintenance are the leading cause to vessels breaking loose from their moorage and causing several thousand dollars’ worth of damage.

Any questions regarding boating safety, call the sheriff’s office at 360-378-4151.