Boating Safety

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Boating Safety

The most important advice we can give is that you should know the lake you are going out on.  Do not boat on a lake if you are unfamiliar with the area you are going to. Always take a person with knowledge of the lake with you before you set out.

Secondly, try to avoid emergency situations before they can occur by acting sensibly.  Once an emergency occurs on the water it can quickly become very serious and life-threatening.  Bad weather is a major contributor to boat accidents, do not go out in bad weather or if bad weather is forecasted.

Always be prepared for engine failure. If you would not be able to control the boat on the oars, then it is not suitable to go out.

The main dangers:

  1. Man overboard: This is a serious emergency; it is almost impossible to retrieve a fully clothed adult into the boat without the danger of capsizing.  A person who has been in the water is in serious danger of hypothermia.  Once the person is saved, leave the lake and seek medical treatment as soon as possible, no matter how minor you think the situation is.
  2. Capsizing: Will normally result in a man overboard situation as well as putting the boat out of action – this is extremely serious and the best advice is to avoid situations where a capsize is even remotely possible (bad weather, falling over when moving in the boat, overloaded boat, collisions etc.)
  3. Collision with submerged objects (rocks mainly): Can cause serious injury to occupants or capsize the boat.
  4. Hypothermia: leave the water if any occupant is shivering from the cold or becomes wet.
  5. Propeller injury:  Engine propellers are deadly, do no cruise around persons in the water!  The only safe engine is one that’s switched off.

Before you go on the water:

  1. Make sure that you consult the weather forecast, especially the wind strength.  Be aware of weather warnings that may be active. Check inland lakes forecast on .
  2. Check water conditions before you launch – definitely do not go out if you see spray being blown off the waves, but do not wait until conditions get this extreme.  Met Eireann issues a small-craft warnings for Beaufort Scales 5 and above (wind greater than 30km/hr) and it is recommended that club members exercise extreme care well before the weather even approaches these conditions.
  3. Ensure that you are warmly dressed and that you wear appropriate footwear
  4. Make sure that someone knows where you plan to go and how long you will be on the water
  5. Make sure you have some means of communication (mobile phone), it is charged and waterproofed.
  6. Ensure your engine is properly serviced in good running order
  7. Ensure that your engine is securely attached to the boat and that you have used a safety chain.
  8. Make sure that the engine kill-switch is attached to the helmsman.
  9. Make sure you have sufficient petrol, and it is of the correct type (e.g. 2-stroke oil), make sure that your fuel tank bleed valve is open.
  10. Essential boat equipment:
    1. Set of oars
    1. Bailing bucket
    1. Length of rope (preferably a floating rope )
  11. Bail out the boat and remove any slime from the floor of the boat to prevent slipping
  12. Make sure that there is no rope trailing from the boat which may catch in the propeller. Use rope secured to the bow of the boat that is no longer than the boat so it can not catch in the propeller.
  13. Pack things neatly in the boat to avoid tripping over your equipment
  14. Make sure your boat partner knows how to use your engine; you may need them to take over in an emergency.

As you go on the water perform the following initial checks:

  1. Ensure that your engine is working correctly, if you suspect any issues with your engine return to shore.
  2. Observe that engine cooling water flow from the impeller is working.
  3. After a few minutes, recheck the engine clamps just in case engine vibrations may have loosened the clamps.
  4. Make sure that you have read water conditions correctly from shore and return to shore if it is worse than you first thought.
  5. Ensure boatman and partner keep the boat trim, particularly when motoring the boat in heavy weather.

General boating advice:

  1. Do not overload the boat, generally we should not have more than two anglers in the boat.
  2. Do not stand up in the boat unnecessarily.  When moving in the boat, keep your centre of gravity low.  Warn your partner if you intend to move or lean over the side of the boat so they can counterbalance if necessary.  It is best to bend over and make sure you are holding onto the boat with both your hands and then only move one of your four limbs at a time when moving in the boat.
  3. Ensure weight is distributed evenly in the boat.  Avoid too much weight on one side of the boat as well as having weight too far forward or too far back.
  4. Travel slowly, particularly in areas you are not familiar with or when approaching shore. ‘If you think you are travelling slow enough – slow down!’
  5. In high waves, try to travel into the waves, and do not travel along the waves.
  6. Take care when you are travelling downwind in heavy waves as the waves may cause the boat to broach (turn sideways) and capsize.
  7. Adjust your speed when in heavy weather do not go too fast or too slow, concentrate on meeting each wave at the correct angle, speed and under the correct power.
  8. If stopping on shore for a short while, make sure that your boat is properly secured, particularly if the wind is blowing away from the shore.
  9. When underway, make sure that you are on constant lookout for other boats or markers indicating underwater hazards, a good way to do this is to move the boat slightly from port to starboard and back as you travel as this allows you to scan the water ahead.
  10. When possible, always approach a shoreline from the leeward side of an island or a point.

When you get back to shore:

  1. Secure the boat properly:
    1. Make sure that you have pulled it up sufficiently
    1. Ensure that the boat is securely tethered
    1. Support the sides of the boat with tyres and ensure that the boat cannot bash against other boats.
    1. Ensure that the boat and oars are securely locked and the keys stowed
  2. Remove all your belongings, litter and discarded fishing line.

Beaufort Scale – Water Conditions

Wind ForceStateAppearance on the Water (Lake Conditions)Wind km/hrWind Knots
0CalmWater surface smooth and mirror-likeLess than 2Less than 1
1Light AirScaly ripples, no foam crests3-61-3
2Light BreezeSmall wavelets, crests glassy, no breaking7-114-6
3Gentle BreezeLarge wavelets, crests begin to break, scattered whitecaps12-197-10
4Moderate BreezeSmall waves 25cm. becoming longer, numerous whitecaps20-3011-16
5Fresh BreezeModerate waves 35-50 cm taking longer form, many whitecaps, some spray31-3917-21
6Strong BreezeLarger waves 50-75cm, whitecaps common, more spray40-5022-27
7Near GaleWater heaps up, waves 1m, white foam streaks off breakers51-6128-33
8GaleModerately high >1m waves of greater length, edges of crests begin to break into spindrift, foam blown in streaks62-7434-40
9Strong GaleHigh waves 1.5m, water begins to roll, dense streaks of foam, spray may reduce visibility75-8741-47
10StormVery high waves (2m) with overhanging crests, sea white with densely blown foam, heavy rolling, lowered visibility88-10248-55
11Violent StormExceptionally high (>2m) waves, foam patches cover sea, visibility more reduced103-11756-63
12HurricaneAir filled with foam, waves over 2.5m, water completely white with driving spray, visibility greatly reducedGreater than 11864+

Please see these additional safety resources: