Spending time out on the water boating is exceptionally safe if precautions are taken to reduce risk. North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia are filled with an abundance of lakes, rivers, and coastline. The coast boarding the Atlantic ocean in these three states is over 6,000 miles long. With all of the bodies of water and lengthened boating season, the southern region is ideal for the boat owner. So how dangerous is boating? Let’s look at some of the key points to consider.

Navigation 

Understanding the rules of the road, as it’s called, is essential to safe navigation. While understanding how to follow navigational markers is vital, it goes far beyond this.

Collisions between vessels are more common than you think. Depending on the direction of each craft in a crossing situation, one has the right of way. Without learning and memorizing passing procedures, consequences can be deadly.

Weather

The weather can have a significant impact on boating safety. It is crucial to check the weather before venturing out on the water. Here are some of the most common conditions you will face that may cause you to reschedule for another day.

Lightning

If lightning is forecasted, it is best to avoid being out on the water. Lightning strikes can seriously injure or, even worse, kill a person or persons on board, and it can also cause severe damage to the boat.

Sometimes unexpected thunderstorms pop up, head back to the boat ramp or marina at a safe navigating speed and seek shelter. 

Wind

Small Craft Advisories are most frequent in the spring, fall, and winter months, although they can occur in the summer. If the National Weather Service issues a Small Craft Advisory, look closely at the conditions expected.

Whether you’re on a lake, river, ocean, or inshore coastal waterway, wind can affect the boat’s maneuverability and sea conditions. Navigating can become problematic in either situation. 

Inland waters can be more protected, but that does not mean it’s entirely safe. The boat can become inundated with water or capsize in these types of conditions. 

Tides

Tidal swings in the coastal waters of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are substantial. Without monitoring the tide changes, a boat can run aground or be left high and dry until the tide comes back in.

When the craft is underway, avoid going outside of the channel markers, particularly as the tide becomes low. If you’re anchored near the beach or in shallow fishing areas, move the boat into waters that are sufficient in-depth to prevent groundings. 

Training

Many states require that the operator of a boat take a boater’s safety class. Here are the requirements in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.;

North Carolina requires boaters born on or after the date of January 1, 1988, to complete a class.

South Caroline only requires operators under the age of 16 to complete a class that drive a boat with a 15 horsepower or larger motor.

Georgia also requires anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 to complete a safe boating class.

Here is a list of organizations that provide boating safety certificates

The course will teach all of the essential information need to operate a vessel safely. Applying what is learned while maneuvering a boat on the water will help eliminate or reduce the risk of injury or death. 

Alcohol

Alcohol is the number one contributing factor to boating accidents. Collisions with boats, objects, or people can be more preventable by avoiding consuming alcohol while operating a vessel.

It is legal to operate a boat in Georgia while consuming alcohol if the blood alcohol content is below .08 percent.

South Carolina can also assess a boating under the influence arrest with a blood alcohol content of over .08 percent.

 North Carolina, like Georgia and South Carolina, also enforces a .08 percent blood alcohol limit. 

The operator is not the only one who should limit alcohol intake while onboard a boat. Passengers can also prevent avoidable injuries due to excessive drinking. A passenger can fall out of a vessel, lose balance inside the craft, or potentially drown when swimming. 

Awareness

No matter if you are operating a vehicle, bike, or boat, the operator needs to maintain a high level of awareness. Distractions can cause boats to run off course into shallow waters, collisions, and loss of control by crossing large waves at high speeds.

The most common types of distractions boat operators encounter

  1. Handheld devices are one of the biggest distractions by talking on the phone, changing songs, texting, and looking through apps.
  2. Daydreaming is another form of distraction. We all want to enjoy the sights around us but remember to keep your eyes on the waters around the entire boat.
  3. Socializing can keep you from focusing on the task at hand. While we all want to enjoy each other’s presence, minimize the socializing to safely navigate the boat. 

So, how dangerous is boating?

Boating is safe provided the operator is educated in navigation rules, and the weather is taken into consideration before departing the dock. You can protect yourself by being prepared; however, you can’t control what other boaters around you do. Always keep a sharp lookout for any form of danger and remain clear of potential hazards. Spending time on the water is fun for the entire family and can be accomplished safely.