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Disclaimer:   I am not a spokesperson for the US Coast Guard. For an official interpretation of regulations you must contact the US Coast Guard or other organization referenced..   More..... 

Boating Safety

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Flame arrestors:  All boats with inboard gasoline engines are required to have the engine equipped with a flame arrestor.  This is a device that fits on the air intake of the carburetor, or air intake for fuel injected engines, that suppresses the flame from a backfire. This prevents a back fire from igniting any gasoline fumes that may be in the engine compartment.  This is not required on outboard engines. This is both a requirement for the manufacturer of the boat and a requirement for the boat owner.  The boat owner must make sure the flame arrestor is in place, and kept clean. If something happens to the flame arrestor you must replace it.

There are a few exceptions.  Any engine that has an air intake or induction system that acts as a flame arrestor does not have to have a separate flame arrestor.  Racing engines, on bonafide racing boats that take part in sanctioned racing, do not have to have a flame arrestor. See  here for more information.  http://www.boatingbasicsonline.com/content/general/4_2_d2.php. 

Engine room ventilation/blower: All boats with enclosed gasoline engines are required to have engine compartment ventilation, unless the engine is open to the atmosphere.  Any compartment with more than 15 square inches of open area per cubic foot of volume is considered open to the atmosphere. There are two components to engine ventilation; natural ventilation and powered ventilation. Natural ventilation uses openings in the compartment to allow air to circulate on it's own.  Powered ventilation uses a blower on the exhaust (the air flowing out of the compartment) to move air through the compartment.  All engines having an electric cranking motor ( a starter) are required to have powered ventilation.  This does not include outboards. Compartments containing a gasoline fuel tank and an electrical device that could ignite fuel vapors must also be ventilated, regardless of the type of engine the boat has.    For more information see http://newboatbuilders.com/pages/vent.html or http://www.boatingbasicsonline.com/content/general/4_2_d.php

Kill switch:  The US Coast Guard does not currently require a kill switch (an emergency engine cutoff switch) on boats. But most boats today, including all personal watercraft (PWC) have a kill switch.  Usually this is a device attached to the ignition switch and to the boat operator with a lanyard.  If the operator is thrown out of the boat or knocked out of their seat the lanyard pulls the key out of the switch and shuts off the engine.  This prevent the boat from running away (usually in circles) and running over the person who was thrown overboard.  The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) has created a standard for this at the request of the Coast Guard (as of 2013) and the Coast Guard may include it in regulations designed to reduce propeller strike injuries and deaths. 

Be Aware: some states may require you to use the kill switch, if your boat is equipped with one.  So if you do not use it you are not only risking yourself, you could be cited for not using it.

Start-in gear protection/neutral safety switch:  A start in gear switch is not what is usually described as a kill switch.  It is a switch built into the starting mechanism that prevents the boat from being started if the engine is in gear.  The engine must be in neutral to be started.  All outboards over about 3 horsepower are required by law to have a neutral safety switch, and almost all inboards today have one as well.  If you are having trouble getting an engine to crank over, and you have checked everything else, make sure it is in neutral, and then put a jumper wire on the neutral safety switch.  This may cure the problem, but then get it fixed. Only operate a boat without the neutral safety switch in an emergency. 

If a boat engine starts up while in gear it can suddenly surge forward. This can cause people to be thrown out of the boat or thrown around inside the boat. This switch is designed to prevent that. There were many cases of this happening and people being thrown in the water before this requirement.  Unfortunately when this happens the boat often goes in a circle and comes back hitting the person in the water.

Anchors:  Although most states and the Coast Guard do not require an anchor, an anchor is an absolutely essential item of safety equipment in any boat bigger than a dinghy or  a canoe.  It is useful in small boats as well, but not as essential as it is in larger power and sail boats.  If you have a power failure you will need to anchor.  If a storm approaches and you need to take cover in a bay or cove, you need an anchor.  There are many emergency situations that require an anchor.

There are many types and sizes of anchors.  An anchor should be sized to the size of your boat and designed for the type of bottom (of the water) in the area you do most of your boating. Some anchors hold well in sand or mud, but not as well in rocks or weeds.  Others work well in rocks and weeds but will not hold in mud and sand.  So you need to select an anchor carefully.

 Just as important as the anchor is the anchor rode, the line from the boat to the anchor.  It needs to be sized correctly and be long enough to hold the boat in rough conditions.  It should be at least seven times the length of the deepest water you will anchor in.  There should also be a short length of heavy chain attached between the anchor and the rode.  For more on anchors, look in Chapmans Piloting and Seamanship or here;  
Basic Anchoring http://www.boatingbasicsonline.com/content/general/7_4.php
Advanced Anchoring http://yachtpals.com/anchoring
Selecting an Anchor:  http://www.anchoring.com/blog/anchor-selection-guide-
choosing-an-anchor-type/

Bailing devices:   All boats get water in them.  Let me repeat that; all boats get water in them.  That doesn't mean they leak.  Sometimes the water is splashed in, some is just from rain.  But however the water gets in, you need a way to get it out.  Little boats such as dinghies and canoes or small outboards need a bucket or small pail to bail the water.  Anything big enough to have a battery and an electrical system should have a bilge pump.  Although the US Coast Guard does not require this, some states and local jurisdictions do. http://www.boatingbasicsonline.com/content/general/4_2_f.php
http://boatsmartcanada.com/boat-safety-equipment.htm

There are many small bilge pumps on the market for every size of boat and need.  But remember, these pumps are not designed to deal with flooding or swamping.  They are there just to remove incidental water from rain, splashing or small leaks.  For flooding you need a bucket or a very large capacity pump.  There is an old saying among sailors that there is no better bilge pump than a scared man with a bucket. 

Ditch Bag:  People who travel offshore should have a ditch bag.  A ditch bag contains things you will need if there is a worst case and you have to abandon ship.  This is not something you will usually need for small boats on lakes and rivers, but is still a good idea.  But you will not need as many things.  The typical contents of a ditch bag are good knife, braided cord, an orange rescue streamer or flag,  a strobe, preferably one that signals SOS, flares, a signal mirror, sunscreen, sea sick pills, and a bag that floats and won't leak.  There are other necessaries. See  http://www.boatingmag.com/boatingsafety/node/1071

Safety Equipment  Page  1 2 34, 5

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