Fort Mill Times

6 boating safety tips for July 4

During the Fourth of July weekend, countless coastal and lakeside towns across the country mount fireworks displays, many of which will launch from the water.

These events draw hundreds of boaters, who anchor out or raft up to have “ring-side seats” for the show. Boating at night and in the smoke caused by fireworks can prove challenging

The nonprofit Sea Tow Foundation offers the following six safety tips for boaters watching a July 4th fireworks display from the water:

• Wear your life jacket. Make sure everyone on board is wearing a traditional life jacket that fits properly, or an inflatable PFD. Navigating at night conditions can be just as dangerous as boating in stormy weather or in fog.

• Designate a Sober Skipper to stay at the helm all evening and be responsible for returning the boat and its passengers safely to shore after the fireworks display is over.

• Watch your weight. Don’t overload the boat with passengers. The number of seats available on board is not always the best indicator of capacity. Look for the boat’s capacity plate on the transom or by the helm, or look up the passenger capacity in the boat’s manual.

• Things look different at night. Remember in the dark, visual navigation markers you rely on during the day may be invisible. Chart your route to your fireworks-viewing spot in advance, and use GPS-enabled electronics to help you find it, if necessary.

• Listen up. Follow the directions issued to boaters by U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary as to where you may safely anchor to view the fireworks away from sparks and ash.

• Relax and enjoy the show. Don’t be in a rush to get home; let some of the boat traffic clear out before you raise anchor after the fireworks display is over.

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