Inflatable Boat Safety - Essential Gear & Boating Rules
Being on the water is a great way to have fun. Knowing about inflatable boat safety will give you piece of mind as well as enhance your leisure experience.
One of the first questions you might ask is, are inflatable boats as safe as hard shell boats. The answer to that is not only yes, but in many aspects they are even safer:
- More Buoyancy. Because of the oversized inflatable tubes, inflatables are quite buoyant on the water and very difficult to capsize thanks to the low center of gravity.
- Easy entry from the water. Unlike a hard rowboat, which can be easily tipped over when trying to re-board from the water, a swimmer has no trouble climbing into an inflatable boat.
- Practically unsinkable. The tubes are actually separate chambers so if one is accidentally punctured and deflates, the craft remains buoyant because of the air in the remaining tubes.
- Used by the Coast Guard. From the organization that knows inflatable boat safety, the US Coast Guard as well as the military and other emergency personnel uses inflatables as rescue craft.
Essential Gear to Keep Onboard
While inflatable boats are safe, it is a good idea to pack a repair patch kit and a manual pump stowed along with your other gear. Most manufacturers include them as standard accessories with each boat purchase so there is no extra charge. Along with these items, you need other essential equipment such as a map, visual distress signal device, and paddles.
In addition, there should be a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or life jacket for each person on the craft. The majority of boating accident fatalities is due to drowning, and statistics show that 90% of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.
Here are a Few More Tips to Stay Safe:
- Know Your Boat - Each inflatable craft has a stated limit for weight capacity listed on the hull. This capacity includes all passengers plus gear, and weight should be evenly distributed when underway. In addition, take time to learn the proper operation and care of your boat, and do not over inflate the tubes.
- Know the Water - The most important inflatable boat safety requirement is to know the type of water you will be on, especially fast moving rivers.
- Know the Boating Rules - You should know navigation rules on water with heavy traffic, right of way, and even etiquette when encountering other boaters on lakes and other open water. As for white water areas, most states regulate vessel operations, so be sure to check with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) reference guide as a starting point for your research.
Most problems can be avoided if you follow these few inflatable boat safety tips. Keep your boat in good condition when it is out of the water and stored, and remember to use common sense when paddling and exploring new waterways. With proper attention, you will enjoy years of fun in your inflatable craft.
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